Rockpool restaurant empire ripping off workers

While cooks are usually anticipated to work lengthy and unsociable hours, it’s a breach of office regulation for an employer to require such extreme unpaid extra time if it pushes wages under the minimal fee of the award, the wages security internet.


Separately, firm emails seen by Fairfax Media advise workers on how to not report the precise hours they labored, one other doubtless contravention of office legal guidelines.

The investigation has uncovered the underpayments at two of the group’s restaurant companies, Sake and Munich Brauhaus.

Rockpool Dining Group didn’t reply to particular questions concerning the ”deceptive” recording of hours nor concerning the remedy of migrant workers, however a spokeswoman stated it was “troublesome to touch upon alleged paperwork we’ve got not seen, could also be incomplete or falsified’’.

”That stated, we take these claims very significantly. It must be famous our staff are remunerated in keeping with the business award … our everlasting staff are on annualised salaries, and there are mechanisms in place to assessment pay yearly,” the spokeswoman stated.

”Furthermore, we have now insurance policies and procedures in place which clearly define worker compensation for additional time, together with their with the ability to take time off in lieu.”

Chief government Thomas Pash declined to be interviewed and Mr Perry additionally didn’t reply to requests for remark.


Among the Rockpool Dining Group’s 16 restaurant manufacturers are ”premium” eateries Rosetta and Sake, ”informal and enjoyable” eating places together with Munich Brauhaus and The Bavarian, in addition to its flagship, Rockpool.

Saké restaurant

Saké restaurant

Photo: Joe Armao

The pony-tailed Neil Perry, who has a column in Fairfax Media’s Good Weekend, is considered one in every of Australia’s best and wealthiest cooks. He opened his flagship Rockpool in 1989.

Perry bought his Rockpool Group to Quadrant personal equity-backed Urban Purveyor Group in late 2016 for a reported $65 million, turning into the group’s chief model and culinary director and a big shareholder.

Jonathon Pearce, Justin Ryan, Alex Eady, Chris Hadley and Marcus Darville from Quadrant Private Equity.

Jonathon Pearce, Justin Ryan, Alex Eady, Chris Hadley and Marcus Darville from Quadrant Private Equity.

Photo: Daniel Munoz

The personal equity-backed group is now closely indebted and increasing quickly and, with forecast income of $325 million this monetary yr, is the most important high-end restaurant enterprise in Australia. Not all its companies have labored out and it closed its high-end Sydney restaurant Jade Temple on Saturday as a consequence of poor efficiency.

However, the investigation based mostly on firm pay data, inner administration paperwork, pay slips and hourly data offered to workers, has uncovered critical underpayment and different points.

Leaked paperwork present everlasting cooks recurrently earn lower than $20 an hour and, some weeks, as much as $800 per week lower than they might underneath the award.

The restaurant award permits administration to ”purchase out” penalties and additional time for a 25 per cent larger hourly fee. However, underneath the buyout, workers should nonetheless be paid greater than the award general.

Chefs would solely have to work between one to 5 hours every week of unpaid extra time to be underpaid, an evaluation by The Age and SMH of hourly and pay data exhibits. The cooks repeatedly work 10 to 20 hours of unpaid extra time.

The paperwork additionally present that the eating places maintain two units of figures: the hours truly labored, alongside the hours rostered and paid for.

Receipts are given to workers once they clock on and off utilizing a thumb touch-pad. It exhibits the hours they’re paid for – sometimes eight hours per day. Beneath that on the receipt, the precise hours the employees labored are recorded. This might be as much as 14 hours in a day.

The extreme hours pushed all everlasting, non-management cooks  who have been listed on the paperwork under the authorized minimal hourly price.

Management at Sake instructed workers in writing to not report the actual hours they labored. Emails obtained by The Age and SMH inform workers to not report the precise hours they labored when making use of for days in lieu or once they work on public holidays.

Munich Brauhaus at South Wharf, Melbourne.

Munich Brauhaus at South Wharf, Melbourne.

Photo: Supplied

The extreme hours have led to fatigue and office accidents on the chain, some cooks say, together with workers being taken to hospital for exhaustion and badly reduce fingers.

“We aren’t allowed to talk up about our security considerations,” a chef stated. ”If we did we might not have the ability to keep within the nation as our employment can be terminated.”


Many of the workers at Rockpool Dining Group are migrants, and a few have been informed that if they need their everlasting residency software processed, they need to use the corporate’s legal professionals.

One chef on the group stated their visa standing made migrants weak to extreme work, vital underpayment and exploitation.

They accuse their employer of dragging out their purposes for everlasting residency and of holding their momentary standing in Australia over them.

If they converse out or complain, they’ll lose their job and be pressured in another country, cooks say.

”They’re squeezing us,” the chef stated. “For us it looks like a brand new age of slavery.”

University of Adelaide affiliate regulation professor Joanna Howe stated there have been ”endemic” issues with the design of Australia’s short-term migrant employee packages.

”It provides employers all of the leverage,” she stated. ”It provides workers only a few choices however to acquiesce to a lot of these calls for.”

University of Adelaide regulation professor Andrew Stewart stated the Fair Work Act was unclear about what number of hours of extra time was ”affordable’’. But that didn’t imply workers shouldn’t be paid for that additional time.

”Just since you might be requested to work affordable extra time doesn’t imply that you simply don’t receives a commission for these additional hours,” he stated.

Professor Stewart stated audits by the Fair Work Ombudsman of employers pointed to a tradition of ”entrenched non-compliance” when it got here to paying authorized charges of pay.

The Age-SMH investigation is the newest to disclose widespread flouting of Australia’s office legal guidelines involving a few of Australia’s largest companies.

Last yr The Age reported that celebrity chef George Calombaris had underpaid 160 employees greater than $2.6 million.

George Calombaris underpaid staff at his business.

George Calombaris underpaid employees at his enterprise.

Photo: AAP

Recently the ABC reported allegations about unpaid additional time and underpayment at one other high-end restaurant enterprise, Shannon Bennett’s Vue de Monde. Vue has denied the claims.

The Andrews authorities introduced lately that, if re-elected, it’ll introduce legal guidelines to make wage “theft” a criminal offense, punishable by as much as 10 years’ jail.

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Ben Schneiders is an investigative reporter at The Age with a background reporting on industrial relations, enterprise, politics and social points. A two-time Walkley Award winner, he has been a part of The Age’s investigative unit since 2015.

Royce Millar

Royce Millar is an investigative journalist with a particular curiosity in public coverage and authorities decision-making.

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