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Hundreds of businesses caught out in wage theft sting

Workers in Melbourne’s Degraves Street and Hardware Lane, and Brisbane’s West End have been systematically underpaid.

A view of Degraves Street on March 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Workers in Melbourne and Brisbane’s popular dining precincts are among the 1,351 Australians receiving $1,212,727 in recovered wages after a major sting from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

Between December 2018 and March 2020 the FWO investigated the Degraves Street and Hardware Lane dining precincts in Melbourne and Brisbane’s West End precinct for signs of underpayment, as well as revisiting former offending businesses across the country.

It found that 84 per cent of the 49 businesses in Melbourne’s precincts and 88 per cent of the 44 in Brisbane’s West End were not compliant with Australian workplace laws.

It recovered $194,365 in missing wages for 186 Melbourne workers and another $309,073 for 369 Brisbane workers, with underpayments for businesses in Melbourne ranging between $30 and $59,680 and $377 to $65,215 in Brisbane.

“Competitive dining strips commonly rely on workers who are young, students or visa holders. We will continue to protect such vulnerable employees by holding employers to account,” Ombudsman Sandra Parker said, describing the low rates of compliance as unacceptable.

“While we know some of our priority sectors, including many fast food, restaurant and café businesses, have…

Lucy Dean

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