Former Restaurant Owner Fined for Exploiting Indian Cook in Australia
Simon Peter Mackenzie was fined over A$200,000 for not paying an Indian cook his salary for months.
A former owner of an Indian restaurant in Perth, Australia, was penalized for more than A$200,000 for not paying a cook, who was an Indian national, for months. The cook was also fired by the owner through a text message for taking a sick leave.
Simon Peter Mackenzie was the owner of The Curry Tree restaurant at Nedlands, Perth, before it was destroyed in a fire in 2014, reported Mirage News. He had not given the cook his salary for many months, while also threatening him that he would sue him for defamation and would get him arrested by the police. The details of the case emerged on March 26, according to WAtoday.com.
“There will be no apology at all,” Mackenzie, an Australian national, said at the Federal Circuit Court while facing legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman. He was fined A$34,815 and his company, Siner Enterprises Pty Ltd, was fined another sum of A$174,075, reported Business Insider.
Mackenzie and his company were also ordered by the court to pay the 24-year-old cook his dues. The cook, whose name has not been revealed, started work at Mackenzie’s restaurant in 2012. He is on a bridging visa in Australia. The total amount of outstanding wages and compensation due to him amounted to A$32,661.
For the first few days of work, the cook was paid A$200 in cash. However, for the next four months, when he worked six evenings per week, he did not receive any pay.
Judge Antoni Lucev said that he had “cause for serious concern” for anyone hired by Mackenzie or by any firm he is associated with.
“Mr Mackenzie went so far as to suggest that (the worker) might have somehow had an involvement in events, or events which led to, the burning down of the restaurant, an assertion which was simply not the subject of any evidence whatsoever,” Judge Lucev said, according to Business Insider.
When a text message was sent to Mackenzie by the worker, saying that he was ill and would not be able to come to work and that he would bring a medical certificate the next day, Mackenzie replied in a series of text messages where he fired the cook. One of the text messages said: “Don’t come back.”
The worker was initially unwilling to complain as he was hoping to be sponsored by Mackenzie’s company on a work visa that would allow him to stay in Australia. After he was sacked from work, he lodged a complaint. The Fair Work Ombudsman, an independent statutory agency of the Australian government, began an investigation and legal action was launched.
At the hearing, Mackenzie said that he had not committed any violations of workplace laws. However, the court found that Mackenzie as well as his company did commit all the violations that the Fair Work Ombudsman had alleged, according to Mirage News.
Natalie James of Fair Work Ombudsman said that the decision of the court sent out a clear message that consequences for exploiting foreign workers in Australia intentionally are serious. “This case involved shameful exploitation of a vulnerable worker and the employer’s conduct in this matter thoroughly deserved the strong criticisms it received from the Court. Migrant and overseas workers in Australia are lawfully entitled to the same minimum wages and conditions as any other worker,” James said.
“Employers should be aware that we treat cases involving underpayment of visa holders and young workers particularly seriously because we know they can be vulnerable due to a lack of awareness of their entitlements, language barriers and a reluctance to complain,” she added.