An Albury cafe owner allegedly forced two Indian workers to pay him thousands in cash under the threat of revoking support for their visas.
The Border Mail, 5 May 2015
Frank Ghazale, the owner and operator of Dean Street eatery Canteen Cuisine — which closed last September — is also accused of underpaying five staff members more than $87,000.
The allegations of multiple workplace breaches including coercion, providing false records and underpayment are detailed in a statement of claim lodged with the Federal Court by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
It leaves Ghazale, who now lives in Melbourne, and his company Rubee Enterprises open to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties, while the ombudsman is also seeking full backpay for the employees.
The statement of claim, seen by The Border Mail, shows Ghazale employed two Indian men in their 20s as cooks at the cafe — one sponsored on a 457 visa since March 2013 and the other with an application pending for the same visa, employed since March 2014.
It is alleged Ghazale paid them $1000 and $830 a week respectively; “significantly less” than minimum wage and penalty rates, the ombudsman says.
It’s further alleged Ghazale then forced the pair to withdraw the money he paid them and give it back to him, threatening to withdraw his support for their visas if they didn’t comply.
When one of the men questioned him, Ghazale is alleged to have “taken hold of (the cook) by his collar, pulled him towards the wine room ... shouted at him and demanded he repay Rubee $500 per week if he wanted a visa”, the statement of claim reads.
On another occasion, Ghazale threatened to contact the Immigration Department if the employee refused to hand over the cash.
Documents lodged with the claim state the cooks were forced to pay Ghazale more than $21,000 combined.
One of the cooks was also allegedly not paid at all between August 25 and September 14 last year.
The ombudsman further claims Ghazale underpaid three Australian workers on their wages and entitlements.
A waitress was underpaid $11,273, a cook $8946 and an apprentice cook $6766, it is alleged. Ghazale is also purported to have knowingly provided false time-and-wages records to Fair Work inspectors and did not give employees payslips.
He faces maximum penalties up to $10,200 per contravention of the workplace laws, while Rubee Enterprises faces penalties up to $51,000 per breach.
The matter will return to the Federal Court on July 31.