More 7-Eleven owners fined for underpaying overseas workers

7-elevenOwners of a 7-Eleven store at Parkville, Melbourne, have been penalised for underpaying 12 employees.

Couple Haiyao Xu and Yiran Gu, who used to operate a Parkville 7-Eleven store, have been fined $20,000 each by the Federal Circuit Court. The husband and wife’s company, Hiyi Pty Ltd, was fined $110,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action against the franchisees for underpaying 12 employees a combined $84,047 between September 2013 and September 2014, and have now been back-paid in full.

Natalie James, Fair Work Ombudsman, said an Enforceable Undertaking was implemented with Xu and Gu and their company in relation to underpayments at their city store. Following negotiations with the Fair Work Ombudsman, 11 employees who worked for Hiyi Pty Ltd at the City store are progressively being back-paid. At Hiyi’s city store, employees were short-changed a total of $106,189 between June 2013 and August 2015.

Almost all are overseas workers, including international students.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against eight 7-Eleven franchisees since July 2009. Three are still to be finalised.

Xu, Gu and their company were targeted for a surprise night visit by Fair Work inspectors late in 2014. Inspectors discovered that employees were paid flat rates of between $12 and $17 an hour.

The couple also made false entries into the 7-Eleven head office payroll system to make it appear the employees had been paid award rates and that they had worked fewer hours than was actually the case.

The employees were entitled to receive more than $22 for normal hours and up to $46 an hour for some weekend, public holiday, night and overtime shifts.

Four of the employees were underpaid more than $10,000, with one short-changed $16,500.

Laws requiring employers to issue accurate pay-slips to employees were also flouted.

Judge Suzanne Jones found “deliberate” and “serious” underpayment of vulnerable employees and “contravention of fundamental minimum entitlements”.

James said that deliberate underpayment of vulnerable overseas workers will not be tolerated in Australia.

“We are very serious about weeding out employers who think they can exploit overseas workers. We have minimum pay rates in Australia, they apply to everyone, and they are not negotiable,” she said.

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