Dozens of protesters gathered out the front of the Adelaide CBD bubble tea shop, where a brawl broke out last week, calling for end to all wage exploitation and theft.
The group chanted between speeches saying “Say no underpayment, say no to exploitation” with many people holding signs which read “no more wage theft”, “no to violence against women” and “sick of these a****** bosses”.
Aira Firdaus from the United Workers Union told of her experience with wage theft by another employer when she migrated from Malaysia about 10 years ago.
She said she only earned between $8-$14 an hour working in hospitality.
“At the time I did not know my rights as a worker,” Miss Firdaus said.
“My boss at the time threatened me if I didn’t want to clean the bathrooms (with) in 10 minutes … I felt very scared and this happened to a lot of other hospitality workers as well.
“(The footage of the brawl is) appalling and it’s sad to say that it’s actually very common and I wasn’t surprised.”
Jackie Chen from the SA Labour Info Hub said he knew of at least 121 other businesses in Chinatown that paid their workers less than $15 an hour.
He said about 90 per cent of international workers were fearful to speak out against their employers.
“This is 100 per cent unacceptable, especially when international students are not fluent in English and they don’t know how to find support because they’re not familiar with the Australian system,” Mr Chen said.
“We urge the Australian government to look into these issues and to sort this out. It’s a disaster that’s been going on for decades. Besides, they’re eroding the Australian tax system.”
Edward Satchell from the SDA Union said underpayment existed everywhere and many employers tried to get out of paying the correct wages.
“We’re working with a range of organisations to investigate what happened and we’ll be looking to pursue to make sure justice is served in this case and broadly.”
Another rally has been organised for Saturday.
The two women who were slapped during the brawl said they are also victims of wage theft and are considering legal action.
Footage emerged earlier this week showing a 20-year-old woman being hit across the face then later kicked in the stomach after an argument broke out in the Fun Tea store in Adelaide’s Chinatown.
In a notice propped in the window of the Gouger St store, which has been closed since Friday, it claimed the assailant had no affiliation with the business.
“The incident arose following a previous verbal argument which the female employee had with the customer,” it read.
“The alleged assault was not connected to a complaint about the employee’s pay or rates of pay.”
A 39-year-old man, Gavin Guo, was arrested and charged with assault over the incident.
After reading the notice posted in the store, a statement was issued on behalf of the two international students, who wished to remain anonymous.
“Our client(s) strongly reject Fun Tea’s statement that Mr (Gavin) Guo was not related to Fun Tea,” the statement read.
“Mr Guo is a close friend of the owner of Fun Tea. The Fun Tea statement is misleading.”
The Working Women’s Centre SA Inc is representing the women, aged 20 and 22, who were both Fun Tea employees for almost six months.
The social services organisation claims the women earned between $10 and $12 an hour as casual employees when the legal minimum rate in a restaurant is $25.51.
“International Students are often the victims of wage theft in the workplace.”
According to The Working Women’s Centre SA Inc, one of the women was told by management at Fun Tea that Mr Guo would attend the store on January 29 and that the staff should provide free drinks and desserts to him and his family.
While police continue to investigate the circumstances of the alleged assault, WWCSA have rejected claims by the store that the confrontation was unrelated to their wage dispute.
The two women claim Fun tea “failed to provide a safe workplace” and store management “did not immediately check on their welfare”.