Sydney pharmacy fined for underpaying migrant 93 weeks’ pay
A migrant worker who was underpaid the value of 93 weeks’ wages over four years worked seven-days-a-week without time for lunch breaks or getting sick so he could support his family.
The Federal Circuit Court also heard evidence that he was threatened with the sack when he asked for a pay rise and twice a week he took the rubbish home because the pharmacy he worked for did not have a bin.
The court has fined the operators of four Sydney “Save and Deliver” pharmacies $45,000 after underpaying the Egyptian migrant worker who spoke little English. The total fine amounts to $62,010.59 over four years.
Sydney men Nader Bastawrose, Amgad Samaan and Ashraf Youssef were each fined $15,000 after the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated and took legal action.
Judge Robert Cameron said the migrant worker had been underpaid “the equivalent of about 93 weeks’ wages” between September 2009 and June 2013.
The worker gave evidence that he often worked more than 40 hours per week without taking breaks for morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea. He said he usually ate his lunch while making deliveries. He attended work when he was sick because he was never paid for the days he did not work.
He gave evidence that he mostly worked 10 to 12 hours per day, four days a week.
He often asked for a pay rise but Mr Youssef always refused and told him that if he disclosed his pay rate to anyone his job would be terminated.
The worker was allegedly paid flat hourly rates of between $12 and $14, but was entitled to between $16 and $43 per hour, depending on his shifts.
The employee said he eventually started working at another pharmacy outside the Save and Deliver group for three days per week to supplement his pay so he could support himself and his family. This meant he worked seven days a week, with no days off.
His duties included preparing methadone doses for about 30 customers each week, delivering medications to homes, transferring supplies between pharmacies in Liverpool and Mt Druitt and various duties at the Mt Druitt Save and Deliver pharmacy. He said he even took the rubbish home because there was no bin at the pharmacy.
Another employee was allegedly underpaid $5296 as a pharmacy assistant at a Save and Deliver pharmacy at Shellharbour. Fair Work inspectors found pay slip and record-keeping laws were also breached.
The employees were back-paid after the Fair Work Ombudsman started legal action.
The Ombudsman said it had previously put Bastawrose, Samaan and Youssef on notice to pay minimum wage rates after it investigated earlier allegations of underpayment from pharmacy workers.
Judge Cameron found no reason to suspect that Mr Bastawrose, Mr Samaan and Mr Youssef were not aware of the legal entitlements of employees.
He said the partnership “was largely unconcerned with anything other than its own business needs and was largely uninterested in how those demands were affected by the requirements of industrial law”.
Judge Cameron said earlier complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman had demonstrated the partnership must have had some knowledge of employee and employer rights and obligations and “points to a degree of culpable recidivism in the contraventions”.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said a small number of unscrupulous employers still needed to get the message that it is unlawful to pay overseas and migrant workers a “going rate” that undercuts legal minimum rates.
“Cases such as this one should drive home the point to employers that lawful minimum rates apply to all employees in Australia and are not negotiable,” she said.