An Australian hotel manager who was paid as little as $3 an hour and subject to exploitative working conditions has been awarded NZ$29,600.

Maricar Virata was employed at the Comfort Inn Country Plaza Halls Gap Hotel in rural Victoria, with an annual salary based on 40 hours a week of NZ$59,000 plus 9 per cent superannuation.

Virata’s partner, Rolando Gagate, also worked at the hotel and the salary paid to Virata was expected to be split between the pair.

She was on holiday in the Philippines when she was dismissed on the basis of a bullying complaint and because of relationship issues between her and Gagate, which were said to have “adversely impacted the workplace”.

The Fair Work Commission found evidence of bullying given by Halls Gap Hotel owner Michael Parkes was less than convincing, while there was “simply no credible evidence” that relationship difficulties between Virata and Gagate caused any disruption at the workplace, or that any arguments that might have occurred were heard by anyone.

Instead, it was found that “the nature of [Virata’s] employment was, to say the least, unusual. On any view, it was exploitative.”

The Fair Work Commission found Virata was unfairly dismissed and awarded compensation of NZ$29,600.

Virata said she took the job because Halls Gap was willing to sponsor her visa and that of her partner and “we were just very keen to come and work in Australia”.

She and her partner were expected to do everything from manning the reception to cleaning and housekeeping.

“We had to do the entire operations.

“It was very tiring. We were working day and night from 7am opening to closing at 1am. Even if you were sleeping at night, you had to wake up if you got a call from a guest. Technically, I was working 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It was tough.

“When my partner asked to be paid, they just subtracted it from my pay and then I was $500 down a week.

“They were just being really very dodgy. All of a sudden, I got this termination out of nowhere.”

Virata has moved on to other work in the hospitality industry and said she was happy with the commission’s ruling.

She is still waiting on her unpaid wages claim and said it had been almost a year now with no progress.