Inspectors found Shigeo Ishiyama had falsified payment records to hide the fact he was paying his Japanese workers less than half the minimum the wage.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on October 19, 2017

A Gold Coast restaurateur has been fined more than $280,000 after he was found to have been paying his Japanese migrant workers a paltry $8 an hour.

To put that in perspective, the legal restaurant industry award rate at the time was $18 an hour.

Shigeo Ishiyama, the owner and operator of Samurais Paradise at Surfers Paradise, has been fined $38,000 and his business slapped with a further $246,400 penalty by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Inspectors were carrying out audits on Gold Coast restaurants when they found Mr Ishiyama had falsified payment records to hide the fact he was paying his staff a flat rate of between $8 and $11.

The Australian Federal Circuit Court handed down the penalties after he was found to have underpaid nine employees a total of $59,080 between July and October in 2015, the Ombudsman said in a statement today.

The workers are understood to have been responsible for waiting and cooking duties. They were predominantly Japanese citizens in their 20s, with 417 working holiday visas.

Legal action commenced in May, with Ombudsman Natalie James saying the seriousness of the matter and the involvement of young overseas workers warranted it. This is despite the workers having been reimbursed for their underpayments by that time.

“It is completely unacceptable that this employer allegedly continued to blatantly undercut lawful minimum rates, despite being educated about his obligations,” Ms James said in May.

The judgment

Judge Salvatore Vasta clearly agreed with Ms James, handing down a near maximum penalty.

“The aggravating circumstances of the falsifying of records and the provision on two occasions of false records, shows that this case is in a very serious bracket,” Judge Vasta said.

“The making of false records, as I have already said, is a most heinous offence. The Respondent was warned not to make false records, but did any way and those false records gave quite an improper picture of what was happening.

“When one is looking at a small business, the temptation is great that such a saving to them would give them a competitive edge of all the other businesses in their area… Whilst one applauds persons trying to stay competitive, this cannot be done at the expense of employees and in breach of the Fair Work Act,” he added.