But workers still owed thousands in back pay
A decision was made in the Melbourne Magistrates Court last week to fine the former operators of two 7-Eleven stores $150,000. At the same time Magistrate Kate Hawkins ordered Bosen to back-pay six workers close to $90,000. Unfortunately these workers will probably never see their money.
The scam was uncovered by UNITE who exposed the 7-Eleven franchise for paying as little as $9 per hour. The company Bosen Pty Ltd was ordered to pay $120,000 in penalties while the operators Hao Chen (Eddie) and Xue Jing (Jane) have been individually fined $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.
While UNITE welcomes these employers being fined, the problem at hand is that the workers are still unlikely to see what they are owed in full. Hao Chen and Xue Jing have practically wound up the company leaving it with massive debts. Bosen Pty Ltd is likely to go bankrupt before it pays the $120,000.
While Magistrate Hawkins ordered Chen and Jing to pay their $30,000 in penalties to the underpaid workers, this will only cover about a third of what they are owed.
UNITE Secretary Anthony Main said today “Unfortunately what this case shows is that the system doesn’t work for low paid workers.
“We have a situation where employers have stolen tens of thousands of dollars from their workers. They are basically living off the proceeds of crime in Toorak while the workers are not even going to receive the minimum wage for the time they worked.
“The penalties of $20,000 and $10,000 for Eddie and Jane are totally inadequate. Rather than sending a strong message to rogue employers this decision says that bosses can profit from mass underpayments even after they have been proved guilty.
“This case is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that most 7-Eleven franchisees are up to their necks in similar behaviour. The lesson for shop workers and international students is that the best defence against being ripped off is to join a fighting union.
“We can’t rely on the boss’s courts to give workers justice. We need to put a stop to this on the shop floor. Being organised in a union is your best protection.” Anthony said.
See also this media release from the Fair Work Ombudsman here.