Nodaji Sushi owner owed $28,600 to workers

THE owner-operator of Bundaberg's Nodaji Sushi restaurant and three other take-away sushi bars underpaid four young foreign workers almost $28,600 in just six months, a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation has found.

Businessman Younsig Kang initially told Fair Work inspectors the Korean backpackers had agreed to work for below-award wages - and labelled them "trouble-makers" after they approached Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James for help.

However, as an alternative to litigation, Mr Kang later agreed to reimburse the workers all their outstanding wages and entitlements, publicly apologise for his behaviour and give a commitment to comply with federal workplace laws in future.

Mr Kang's two companies, Knodaji Pty Ltd and Taejin Pty Ltd, will each make a $5000 donation to the Queensland Working Women's Centre to help it promote workplace rights.

Knodaji runs the dine-in sushi restaurant at 25 Targo Street, Bundaberg, trading as Nodaji Sushi, and Taejin operates take-away sushi outlets in the food courts of the Sugarland Shoppingtown in Bundaberg, Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore and Stockland at Hervey Bay.

In the case of Nodaji Sushi, Fair Work inspectors identified that a female Korean backpacker on a 417 working holiday visa had been short-changed $5639 between February and July last year.

The employee was underpaid her minimum hourly rate, casual loadings, penalty rates for weekends and received no superannuation contributions.

She was paid a flat rate of $14 an hour for Monday to Saturday work when she should have received between $21.65 and $25.13 an hour according to the terms and conditions of the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

The worker received up to $22.50 an hour for Sunday shifts but should have got $28.60.

Further, Knodaji unlawfully deducted $12 a day from the employee's wages for "food and drinks" even when she did not consume anything from the shop.

Fair Work inspectors also found that Knodaji breached workplace laws by failing to keep proper employment records and failing to issue employee payslips.

Additional inquiries by the Fair Work Ombudsman identified that three other female employees of Mr Kang's take-away sushi bars were short-changed more than $22,000 between January and July last year.

The individual underpayments were $8006, $7514 and $7435.

The female employees were also Korean backpackers in Australia on 417 working holiday visas.

Mr Kang could not be contacted for comment yesterday.