Noodle bar worker paid just $10 an hour

AN Adelaide noodle kitchen will have to pay thousands of dollars to a former cook who was paid only $10 an hour to work without a meal break, penalty rates or superannuation.

Chinese student Hao Zhang told the Employment Tribunal he was owed almost $33,000 in back pay and superannuation for his time at Duo Duo's Noodle Kitchen between April 2016 and August 2017.

However, the Wright St noodle bar owners - Juan Lin and Rose Qian - argued that Mr Zhang had been paid $17 an hour (still less than the minimum hourly wage, which will rise to $19.49 on July 1) and had not worked as a cook but as a kitchen hand.

Mr Zhang said he had worked sporadic hours for the noodle bar, which he said was popular with Chinese students, and had been paid in cash on Thursdays at a flat rate of $10 an hour.

During his time at the restaurant the pay increased to $11 but his shifts included weekends, public holidays and late nights.

Despite being on a student visa which prohibited him from working more than 40 hours a fortnight, Mr Zhang said he worked up to 70 hours a week in the kitchen.

Towards the end of his time at the noodle bar, Mr Zhang applied to be sponsored for a visa by his employer but told Mr Lin and Ms Qian that he needed to show he was getting paid at the legal threshold.

Mr Zhang told the tribunal that one of the owners had agreed but said a portion of the money paid into his account would need to be given back in cash.

The noodle bar owners argued that Mr Zhang had been paid $17 an hour and had only worked nine hours a week.

However, tribunal deputy president Magistrate Michael Ardlie said the two owners had damaged their credibility by colluding on their testimonies about the number of hours Mr Zhang worked.

"Mr Lin had no interest in telling the truth," Mr Ardlie said.

"His only interest and purpose in giving evidence was to bend the facts in whatever direction would get him out of liability.

"Ultimately Mr Lin conceded that he and Ms Qian did discuss the claim and helped each other as regards their memory."

Mr Ardlie ruled that Mr Zhang had been underpaid but also concluded that the student had exaggerated the number of hours he had worked.

He declined to order the $33,000 in back pay and adjourned the matter for a further hearing on the amount of unpaid wages to be paid.