Restaurant visa rorters demand minimum wage freeze

By Leith van Onselen

Restaurant & Catering Australia CEO, Juliana Payne, has demanded no increase in the minimum wage in 2019 due to the above-inflation increases of recent years. From The Australian:

Restaurant and cafe owners have called for a minimum wage freeze, declaring that the Fair Work Commission should ­impose a real wage cut on low-paid workers by not granting any increase this year.

Restaurant and Catering Australia, which represents 45,000 businesses nationally, said a freeze was justified given the financial pressures on ­employers resulting from ­increased competition and the impact of above-inflation minimum wage increases granted by the commission in recent years.

The industry’s call for a real wage cut comes after it was last year found to be ground zero for wage theft:

Businesses have been forced to pay back almost half a million dollars to 616 workers following Fair Work ombudsman audits of the hospitality industry in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that found 72% of businesses had breached workplace laws.

Fair Work inspectors visited 243 businesses on Victoria Street in Melbourne’s Richmond, Glebe Point Road in Sydney’s Glebe and at Fortitude Valley in Brisbane. They interviewed staff and checked employment records, issuing 71 on-the-spot fines and 63 formal cautions, and finding workers were owed $471,904.

Of the businesses found in breach of workplace laws, 38% underpaid their staff, while 28% failed to keep adequate employment records and pay slips. Failure to pay overtime or to give staff adequate meal breaks were other common issues…

The Fair Work ombudsman, Natalie James, said she was disappointed by the high level of non-compliance, but not surprised. One in 10 disputes resolved by the ombudsman last financial year involved a restaurant, a cafe or a takeaway food outlet, and nearly one-third of the most serious cases the ombudsman takes to court involves the sector…

“This is an industry-wide problem and it needs an industry-wide response. There are over 50,000 cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets in Australia, and the Fair Work ombudsman cannot fix this one cafe at a time.”

The audits found the non-compliance rate was the highest on Victoria Street, with breaches identified at 81% of businesses, compared with 70% (47 of 67) on Glebe Point Road and 60% (44 of 73) at Fortitude Valley.

These findings came after the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in 2017 revealed that foreign workers are involved in more than three-quarters of legal cases initiated by the FWO against unscrupulous employers.

Again, what’s the point of hiking a minimum wage that nobody pays anyway?

MB long ago observed that the rampant importation of cheap foreign labour over this cycle triggered a structural adjustment in the Aussie economy in which entire supply chains internalised wage rorting. Some even go so far as to make labour a profit centre through the selling of visas versus the paying of wages.

The problem of low wages growth won’t be solved until the avenue for cheap foreign labour is closed-off via restricting immigration – both temporary and permanent.

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  1. Is it just me or is it the hidden rising cost of living that is the issue rather than insufficient wages or wage growth? Where is the policy to drive productivity and lower living costs? I agree that in these times forced wage rises is a bad idea, but surely we can do better than marginal tax cuts?

    • You can’t drive productivity and lower living costs while importing the 3rd world as cheap labour, So I guess we can’t do better while also supporting the wealthy?

      • Yeah, we all agree that immigration is the elephant in the room. The rogue bull that needs to be shot.

  2. They should be pushing for lower RE prices (commercial and residential )so their rents drop. Win win.

  3. There are really two separate issues here. The first issue is that some businesses are breaking the law and paying even lower than the existing minimum wage, which definitely needs to be investigated and tightened up. The second issue is whether the minimum wage should be increased. Personally, I would prefer a system where it is kept at its current level but subsidised by the Government through some form of “negative taxation” (closely related to the UBI). In 2013 we were told that Australia had the highest minimum wage of almost any country in the world, and we are probably still close to the top of that list.

    • The minimum wage in San Francisco is U$15/hour. That is A$21/hour. Australia also used to set the min wage on a state by state basis. Of course the min wage in Sydney should be a lot higher than the min wage in rural Tasmania, but the right wing pricks realised that they could keep the min wage in Sydney a lot lower than $21/hour if they have the same min wage across Australia. So PM Howard centralised the wage rate system.

      As for UBI, it should be put in. Or give out free stuff at school:

      Theresa May’s conservative government has announced plans to provide free sanitary pads and tampons to high-school girls in England

      the student activist who called for the British government to provide free sanitary products to every girl in the UK who receives free school meals.

      Amazing! Not only do they get free food at school, they will now get free tampons too!

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Personally, I would prefer a system where it is kept at its current level but subsidised by the Government through some form of “negative taxation” (closely related to the UBI).

      Why ? What outcome are you trying to achieve ?

  4. Stop flooding the market with cafes and restaurants by not giving visas for buying / opening a restaurant / cafe here.

  5. There’s a spot for silly property prices and ridiculous rents in here as well. How much does the average restaurant need to pay to a rent seeker to even turn the lights on? Somehow wages are always the problem, but the rentseeker bleeding us at every level never gets a comment.

  6. Check of the Restaurant and Catering association website shows that they are a lobby group and migration agency in addition to an industry association that also provides training courses.

    Their policies:

    Should check out her twitter feed for a chuckle:
    Proposal to submit payroll tax once a year is interesting. So it will take longer than a year to detect payroll and superannuation payment issues? Wonder what could go wrong there?