Domino’s Pizza: Franchisee offers to sell sponsorship visa to Chinese

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A Domino’s Pizza franchisee has been caught illegally selling visas for up to $150,000, as former workers claim the practice is common within the pizza chain.

Visa fraud, such as in this case, has emerged as part of a wider investigation into worker exploitation at the country’s biggest and most profitable pizza chain.

A Domino’s Pizza franchisee has been caught illegally selling visas for up to $150,000, as former workers claim the practice is common within the pizza chain.

Visa fraud, such as in this case, has emerged as part of a wider investigation into worker exploitation at the country’s biggest and most profitable pizza chain.

On Saturday Fairfax Media exposed widespread underpayment across Domino’s stores amid allegations that the business model is flawed, pushing many of its 600-strong franchise network to cut corners.

Domino’s said it has not previously received any complaints of visa fraud and has zero tolerance for the practice.

But the pizza giant launched an investigation on Sunday after it was informed that Fairfax Media had obtained a phone recording of a Domino’s franchisee asking for money in exchange for sponsorship at a Domino’s store in regional Queensland.

“I will say straight that we want to sell this sponsorship … but you need to pay some money,” the man, who identified himself as “Eric”, said.

“We might need you pay $100,000 plus … $100,000-$150,000,” the franchisee said during a phone call.

Claim denied

Fairfax Media has established the franchisee is named Bohai Shangguan, who runs the Domino’s pizza store in Atherton in Far North Queensland.

During the recorded phone conversation the foreign worker was told to use Mr Shangguan’s own lawyers during the visa negotiations.

In the recording, Mr Shangguan said he had already sold a sponsorship to another worker but had other “opportunities” for sponsorship for money.

Fairfax Media spoke to Mr Shangguan who admitted offering a sponsorship, but denied asking for money.

“We just need someone to run the shop … we don’t do those things” he said.

They know international students want a visa and many families in China will put together money.

The conversation was recorded by, Jon, a Chinese student who requested his full name be withheld for fear of retribution. He was responding to an advertisement for a Domino’s store manager, including sponsorship.

Jon said it wasn’t uncommon for franchisees to ask for money in return for sponsorship.

“It’s all about money,” he said.

“They know international students want a visa and many families in China will put together money.”

Requests illegal

It is illegal to ask for, receive, offer or provide a benefit for visa sponsorship. The Department of Immigration said it takes breaches of visa obligations very seriously with penalties including up to two years imprisonment and fines of up to $324,000.

Former Domino’s worker Azrael Yin, who recently gained permanent residency, said many franchisees sell sponsorships.

“There’s nothing you can do,” he said.

“I know of one person who is sponsored and works 60 hours a week and gets paid for 40 hours.”

He said one Domino’s franchisee sponsored two foreign workers, charging them tens of thousands of dollars, before withdrawing.

“One of the workers went back to China after the rip-off,” he said.

The company previously denied systemic underpayment of wages, saying it was “embarrassed where an employee has not been paid their appropriate entitlements, whether deliberately or accidentally”.

The company also rejected evidence produced in the Fairfax Media investigation that some of its franchisees were getting a rough deal and said average profitability ranges between $138,000 and $145,000 a year.

In a statement released at the weekend the company said much of the recent criticism was fuelled by franchisees that had indicated they “wanted more favourable termination terms, or would take their grievances to the media”.

Following Saturday’s allegations, Michael O’Connor, the head of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, cited the story on Facebook, while urging industry superannuation funds to “act” on companies involved in widespread underpayment.

“Time for industry super funds to act on public listed companies that are involved in wage theft,” he said.

On Saturday, Domino’s wrote to its store network chiding some who may have released internal sales figures “to mislead journalists and their readers” and reminded franchisees about their workplace obligations.

“We will not tolerate any franchisee failing to comply with their employment obligations,” the company said in an email.

By Adele Ferguson and Mario Christodoulou

Sydney Morning Herald

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