George Calombaris, the Australian television MasterChef judge has underpaid staff at his restaurants by nearly $8m.
That figure dwarfed the amount of $2.6m paid to more than 160 people employed by his restaurant empire after it was revealed they had been underpaid overtime for up to six years.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has fined his Made Establishment company $200,000 after a four-year investigation that uncovered a failure to pay award rates, penalty rates, casual loadings, overtime and other allowances.
United Voice union said the punishment was manifestly inadequate.
Its national secretary, Jo-anne Schofield, said: “We are truly shocked at the full extent of wage theft at Made Establishment.
“For the seriousness of this crime, a $200,000 fine is not sufficient. If someone deliberately took $1,000 out of someone else’s bank account, there would be a high likelihood of a criminal conviction for theft. But when you’re a multimillionaire restaurateur / celebrity chef you can take $7.83m in wages from your workers and get away with a ‘contrition payment’. And you get to keep your TV show, your huge profile and mansion and keep raking in cash off the back of hardworking chefs, waitstaff and bartenders. All the while you’ve also been campaigning to slash the penalty rates for all hospitality workers."
Former Hellenic Republic worker and Hospo Voice leader Orlaith Belfrage said Calombaris should pay a “serious price” for wage theft.
“He should be taken off MasterChef. How many more excuses does George get?"
ACTU, Michele O’Neil, said the case was not an isolated incident, but showed underpayment was a business model.
“Wage theft is systemic across entire industries. We need harsher penalties, directors to be held responsible for their actions and rights for unions to access workplaces and ensure that workers are being paid correctly. We also need a simple, accessible process for workers to claim back wages that they have had stolen."
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