Following an investigation by the Australian Border Force (ABF) Sponsor Monitoring Unit, the China Chilli Holding Group that operates nine Sichuan cuisine restaurants across Australia has been fined $131,400 and barred from sponsoring foreign workers for two years.
It has also been required to provide evidence that it paid just under $800,000 deemed to be owing to workers it brought into the country.
Operation Acapella commenced in January 2020, with ABF officers visiting and auditing the Holding Group’s restaurants located in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Twenty-three sponsored foreign workers underpaid
The business was found to have underpaid 23 workers collectively $799,575 between July 2019 and November 2020. In addition to the fines and sponsorship bar, the Holding Group has provided the ABF with evidence of rectifying the underpayments.
ABF Acting Commander Enforcement for Operations East, Garry Low, said underpayment of workers is a serious issue.
“Everybody working in Australia has the right to be paid properly, including workers who are holders of sponsored visas,” Low said.
“The ABF regularly undertakes targeted sponsor compliance activities to ensure businesses sponsoring visa holders are not underpaying workers or breaching their sponsorship obligations.”
ABF says harsh penalties in place for system abusers
According to Low, sponsored workers must be paid at least the salary approved by the Department of Home Affairs at the time of their nomination.
“Where underpayment or other non-compliance is found, not only will sponsors be required to repay wages owed to employees, they also face harsh fines, cancellation of sponsorship agreements and being barred from making further applications to sponsor workers,” he said.
The ABF says employers approved by the Department of Home Affairs may sponsor people who are not Australian citizens to work for them in Australia. The sponsored work visa program targets genuine skill shortages, diverse business expertise and increases entrepreneurial talent, but without displacing Australian workers.
A sponsor of foreign workers must comply with all Australian immigration and workplace laws, as the Government does not tolerate abuse of Australia’s employer-sponsored work visa program, the ABF stated.