Donegal Town courthouse
A district court judge has warned a fast food restaurant owner that he would go to jail if he did not comply with the orders of the Workplace Relations Commision.
Furthermore, Judge Kevin Kilrane expressed serious concerns about the work conditions of foreign nationals for whom valid employment permits were not produced.
Karnail Singh of Super Bites Restaurant Ltd trading as Apache Pizza, The Diamond, Donegal Town was before Donegal District Court on Monday.
He is charged with having in his employment Mr Balwant Kumar, a foreign national without a valid employment permit on six occasions between January 17, 2017 and February 1, 2018.
Singh is also facing similar charges in respect of Mr Sandeep Kumar on March 29, 2017, and in relation to Mr Digvijy Rana Chaun on November 6, 2017.
Workplace Relations Commission Inspector Tom Hayes told the court that similar offences in relation to the defendant’s premises in County Sligo had already been finalised and fines had been imposed.
However, the matters in Donegal Town had not progressed. He said it had been a bail condition that records in relation to employees would be produced and this had not happened.
Mr Hayes gave evidence of the visits he had made to the premises when the relevant employees had been present.
Judge Kevin Kilrane expressed serious concerns about the defendant’s failure to comply with the order to produce the required employment records.
“He has summed up the situation and said, ‘For me to comply with the Department is going to cost me a lot of money. It is cheaper for me to break the law and pay the fine,’” said the judge.
“In the context of his business he is able to take the hit.
“With that attitude imprisonment must be considered. He cannot make a commercial decision that it is cheaper to break the law and trade under the radar.”
The judge said that without the records there was no way of knowing if the people working there were getting any pay or some pay.
“Many of the people employed there may be unfortunately people who have little option but to work under current conditions,” said Judge Kilrane.
“There is no other explanation for the defendant to do what he is doing.”
The judge adjourned the matter to June 28, saying he wanted to see the records “warts and all” on that date, no matter how bad they were. He said that unless there was full cooperation on that date, imprisonment would follow.
“He cannot be allowed to trade unfairly and to trade against his competitors,” said Judge Kilrane.
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