Australia judge fines Malaysian chain Mamak A$292,672 for underpaying workers

Diners queue outside the Mamak restaurant in Sydney, Australia. — Picture via Facebook/Mamak Haymarket
Diners queue outside the Mamak restaurant in Sydney, Australia. — Picture via Facebook/Mamak Haymarket

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Mamak, a Malaysian street food restaurant in Sydney, and its three directors have been fined A$292,672 (RM898,610) for underpaying its employees and using false records to disguise the payments, according to Business Insider Australia.

Mamak, lauded as one of Sydney’s best value eatery, has long queues outside its Chinatown branch in the evenings, but the Australian Federal Court found that the workers are paying the price for the cheap meals.

The case went to court after the Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action against the restaurant and its owners after discovering that six employees — five of whom are visa holders from non-English speaking backgrounds — were collectively underpaid more than A$87,000.

The workers were only paid as little as A$11 an hour between February 2012 and April 2015. The national minimum wage for Australia is A$17.70 per hour, according to mywage.org, with exceptions for apprentices and junior employees (those under the age of 21).

Australian judge Justin Smith found that Mamak conducted informal market research on pay rates on the black market and underpaid staff to maximise profit, and fined the business A$184,960.

Rrestaurant owners Lee Joon Hoe, Julian Lee and Alan Au Wing-Keong were also fined A$36,992, A$35,360 and A$35,360 respectively.

Judge Smith said, “Not only did the respondents know that the employees were being paid less than their legal entitlements, but they also knew that their records were not kept in accordance with the law,” adding that he wanted the severity of the penalties to act as a deterrent for other employers.

“That approach, of course, was taken at the cost of the employees, who in reality, funded the success of the business,” he added, as quoted by Business Insider.

The workers have been repaid the money they were owed.

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