Indian-origin hotelier to pay compensation to waiter

Sydney, Sep 7 (IANS) An Australian court has ordered an Indian-origin hotel manager to pay compensation to a waiter who was refused his salary partly because he could not “speak proper English”, a media report said on Monday.

The Industrial Relations Court has ordered Nicholas Sharma, the manager of “Indian Masala” restaurant in Prospect city, to pay Milan Dehal AUS$15,000 ($10,410) for his work completed at the restaurant between April 29 and May 14, 2014, the Herald Sun reported.

The 29-year-old waiter had been fighting for almost 18 months to have AUS$1,640.06 ($1,137) of his pending salary paid back.

Sharma told the court that Dehal was only entitled to AUS$17.50 ($12.15) an hour.

“I’m offering to pay it, but not the amount that has been asked for — a person who can’t even speak proper English and he’s demanding 30 Australian dollars ($20) an hour,” Sharma was quoted as saying during the hearing.

Sharma also called the court case against him a “scam”, claiming that Dehal did not complete his work. He told the court that Dehal’s employment record was burnt in a fire.

Nepalese-born Dehal, however, said that he was fighting for the rights of other exploited workers as well.

“A lot of guys from the Indian community are being exploited,” he was quoted as saying.

Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie ruled in favour of Dehal and imposed the civil penalty on Sharma, which he has to pay to Dehal within 28 days.

An inquest into the death of an Indian national, Manjit Singh, had last month highlighted the poor conditions immigrants are subjected to live in some Australian restaurants.

Describing Singh’s death as a “21st-century retelling” of George Orwell’s “How the poor die”, Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon had said that it was one of the saddest stories he ever heard.

Singh arrived in Australia in February 2006, thinking that his promised AUS$43,000 ($29,831) a year salary would allow him to support his family in India.

But he died in 2011 from the complications of his once-latent tuberculosis after living in a slave-like condition in an Indian restaurant that sponsored him.

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