‘Not worth it’: Workers underpaid $147,000

FORMER operators of a Gold Coast car wash business have been fined after they underpaid 59 workers more than $147,000 because they were not 'worth' it.

Expresso Carwash Cafe former managing director Richard Sang Kyun Kim and former general manager Chao 'Tommy' Liu were fined $42,432 and $26,520 respectively for the breaches, which occurred between 2012 and 2014.

The business has two locations in Southport and Labrador.

59 employees were underpaid by Kim and Liu.
59 employees were underpaid by Kim and Liu.

Shortly after legal action commenced, their business Ausinko Pty Ltd was liquidated.

Expresso Carwash Cafe is now owned by a separate company. There is no suggestion the current owners were involved with the breaches.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said Kim and Liu's conduct was designed to exploit employees, including those especially vulnerable, such as visa holders.

"Any employer who tries to profit from underpaying migrant workers should take note that we will act to ensure such conduct is met with serious consequences. All workers in Australia have the same rights and protections at work, regardless of citizenship or visa status," Ms Parker said.

Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.
Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

One Korean worker on a 457 skilled worker visa sponsored by Ausinko was forced to pay back $21,685 of her wages via a cashback scheme.

She was instructed to pay back wages to the company via weekly cash payments between $111 to $715.

This meant she was left with between $15 to $18.50 an hour for the work she performed despite her contract as a full-time cook stating she would be paid $49,330 annually.

Between October 2012 and May 2014 she was underpaid $29,528.

Judge Michael Jarrett said Kim and Liu imposed that she "make repayments to (the company) of part of her wages on the basis that she might lose her job and her visa if she did not".

He said it was a deliberate strategy designed to maintain the "appearance of compliance with workplace and immigration laws."

During interviews with a Fair Work Inspector, the pair indicated the workers were not "worth" the minimum award rates that applied in Australia.

"Requests from his employees to be paid the amounts to which they were entitled caused (Liu) to become upset because he expected loyalty from employees within 'the Asian culture'," Judge Jarrett said.

The other 58 workers were underpaid $117,775 collectively, with amounts ranging from $82 to $6,329. Of these, 26 workers were underpaid at least $2000.

Pay slip laws were also broken for 58 of the 59 employees.

In addition to the fines, Kim and Liu were required to complete the Hiring Employees course via the Fair Work Ombudsman.