MasterThieves’ strategy: steal wages

The Calombaris case is not an isolated incident, but shows underpayment is a business model, says unions.

Unions say the punishment of celebrity chef George Calombaris for underpaying staff to the tune of $7.8 million is manifestly inadequate.

His Made Establishment company was fined $200,000 by the Fair Work Ombudsman after a four-year investigation that uncovered a failure to pay award rates, penalty rates, casual loadings, overtime and other allowances.

United Voice national secretary Jo-anne Schofield said the fine was not sufficient for the seriousness of the crime.

“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.”

ACTU President Michelle O’Neil said the Morrison government should change its priorities away from attacking unions and the workers they represent and “address wage theft” and “the integrity of employers”.

“This isn’t an isolated indecent or an oversight by a handful of employers. Wage theft is systemic across entire industries,” she said.