Brisbane 7-Eleven outlet faces court action

Another 7-Eleven outlet in Brisbane is facing court for allegedly short-changing overseas workers thousands of dollars and creating false records to try to cover it up.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has announced legal action against the operators of the 7-Eleven fuel outlet at 508 Vulture Street, East Brisbane for allegedly underpaying two employees – both international students from India aged in their mid-20s – a total of $5,593 over a five-month period in 2014.

Facing legal proceedings are the outlet’s manager and part-owner Avinash Pratap Singh and a company he is a director of, S & A Enterprises (Qld) Pty Ltd.

The FWO conducted inquiries following media coverage relating to the outlet in 2015 and received a request for assistance from one of the employees.

It is alleged that Mr Singh and S & A Enterprises paid flat hourly rates as low as $15, resulting in underpayment of minimum hourly rates, overtime rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work.

Mr Singh and the company allegedly also created false employment records when making false entries into the 7-Eleven head office payroll system and knowingly provided false time-and-wage records to the FWO.

A statement released by 7-Eleven Australia today welcomed the FWO’s legal action against the Brisbane franchisee.

“7-Eleven has been collaborating with the FWO’s investigation into these alleged historic wage underpayments dating back to July-November 2014,” the statement read. “There should be no doubt that we have zero tolerance of wage fraud, and any franchisee proven to be engaging in this behaviour will be terminated from our network.”

The FWO is currently in discussions with 7-Eleven about a robust and transparent arrangement that will satisfy the agency that head office is taking the necessary steps to build a franchise operating model that ensures workers employed in its network are correctly paid into the future.

In a speech to the Migration Institute of Australia National Conference today, FWO Natalie James will appeal to migration agents to assist in dispelling the myth that migrant workers are not entitled to the same wages as Australian citizens.

Ms James will tell the conference it is “not uncommon for visa holders to work for businesses run by other recent arrivals, sometimes of the same nationality, perhaps a relative or family friend to whom they feel strong loyalty”.

Her speech continues: “We find that these business operators may not understand their obligations under the law and often bring cultural norms and work customs from overseas.

“There is no ‘market rate’ for different nationalities of workers. Australia’s minimum wages must be paid to all workers – even workers on visas, irrespective of their visa conditions.”

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50.

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