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News News $8 an hour sparks push for inquiry
The leading union body and the workplace watchdog will hold urgent talks over demands for a government investigation into Perth's hospitality industry, after revelations some adult staff were paid just $8 an hour without penalty rates.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions claimed there was evidence of widespread exploitation at Perth's hotels and restaurants, particularly through the underpayment of migrant workers on subclass 457 and holiday visas.

The Workplace Ombudsman, which recently audited the hospitality sector in the ACT, last night said it wanted to meet union officials over the matter as soon as possible.

ACTU boss Sharan Burrow said the exploitation was highlighted by a recent case in which holiday workers Akiko Falconer and another Japanese waitress won more than $6000 in back pay from a local chain of Japanese restaurants called Shimizu, which has outlets in the city, West Perth and Floreat. Mrs Falconer, who is now applying for permanency after recently marrying an Australian man, said she was paid a flat rate of $8 an hour without holiday pay or superannuation as a part-time employee in the six months until late March this year.

She said the pay rate was common among migrant workers and backpackers at other restaurants around Perth. Many did not know their rights to a minimum wage of about $14 an hour or were not confident about their employment prospects at betterpaying restaurants.

She claimed that one of her former co-workers, now back in Japan, was sacked by text message after she complained about the wages. Her husband Alex, a union official, said the couple declined a private settlement with the restaurant to ensure the employer was held accountable by authorities.

Ms Burrow said there were growing claims of underpayment in Perth's hospitality industry, particularly for vulnerable workers such as migrants, teenagers, backpackers and part-time working mothers.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Ms Burrow said. "We know some people are not being paid anything near the minimum wage."

The Office of Workplace Services, now the Workplace Ombudsman, investigated Shimizu earlier this year, which led to the back pay. A spokesman said last night it would broaden its investigation into the whole chain.

The owner of the Shimizu restaurant, Lawrence Chia, was overseas and could not be contacted.
 
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