Fair Work is taking cafe chain 85 Degrees to court over a fake internship program which allegedly underpaid foreign workers

85 Degrees is being taken to court by the Fair Work Commission after allegedly underpaying workers as part of a fake internship program. (Jeff Gritchen, Digital First Media, Orange County Register via Getty Images)
  • Cafe chain 85 Degrees is being taken to court by the Fair Work Commission after allegedly underpaying workers almost $430,000 over a 12-month period.
  • According to the Fair Work Commission, the cafe chain brought over eight Taiwanese workers to Australia on working holiday visas where they completed 60 to 70 hour weeks.
  • Using the guise of an internship, the students were underpaid more than $50,000 each.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

85 Degrees will head to court as the Fair Work Commission (FWC) alleges it ran a fake internship program to systematically underpay workers.

Eight students from Taiwan were underpaid a total of $429,393.18 over a period of just under 12 months from July 2016 to June 2017, according to the FWC.

“The eight affected students were aged between 20 to 22 at the time and spoke little English. The FWO alleges that each of these eight young Taiwanese workers was underpaid more than $50,000 over a period of just one year,” the tribunal alleges.

The franchisor, the Taiwan-based Comestibles Master, brought the students at Taipei City University of Science and Technology over to Australia, securing them working-holiday visas under the guise of an ‘internship program’, according to the FWC.

They found themselves working in 85 Degrees factories and retail stores around Sydney, operated by 85 Degrees Coffee Australia Pty Ltd. Four prepared and packed cakes and cleaned the operation’s Saint Peters cake factory, while two more worked at the bread factory in Hurstville. Two others worked at the Hurstville and Sydney CBD stores.

The group worked 60 to 70 hour weeks leading to total underpayments of between $50,213 and $58,248 apiece. The FWC alleges there were also contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws.

It’s not the first time the chain has found itself in the Commission’s cross-hairs. It was already subject to an enforceable undertaking after paying three visa workers as little as $12 an hour, with a company director claiming “wage decisions were made at head office in Taiwan” and that consultation with friends led the company to determine that was the “market rate” in Sydney.

The enforceable undertaking was intended to prevent such contraventions in the future, compelling managers to undertake training and subjecting the business to external auditing. The business also paid a nominal penalty of $5,000 to the Sydney-based Asian Women at Work support group.

However, little may have been learnt from that period, with the FWC alleging 85 Degrees contravened that very enforceable undertaking in this most recent episode.


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