A Brisbane cafe ripped off staff by insisting they receive part of their wages in food and drink. The wage rip off occurred at Cafe 63’s since-closed flagship store at 63 Racecourse Road, Hamilton. The company owner now licences the Cafe 63 brand to 37 other businesses across Queensland and Australia.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Michael Jarrett imposed penalties totalling $170,000 against 63 Racecourse Rd Pty Ltd and director Hamish Russell Watson.
Judge Jarrett heard evidence from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) that the company previously underpaid 33 staff. The underpaid cooks, kitchen staff and waiters were mainly on working visas.
FWO told the court that between July and August 2017, the company underpaid staff $36,653. That included paying less than the minimum hourly wage in addition to underpaying penalty rates.
Between November 2017 and January 2018, the company insisted some staff accept food and drink to the value of $35 per day, in lieu of money.
You can’t be paid in scratchies
Mile Heffernan from IR Claims blasted the underpayments as illegal.
“The Fair Work Act obliges employers to pay their staff in money. Your boss cannot pay you in smashed avo, a dirty chai latte or scratchie tickets.
“However, a good boss might give you any of those as a bonus.
“There’s a hefty profit in a $35 cafe bill. So, by taking part of your wages in product, you effectively gift some of your wages back to your boss.
“Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFA) do allow employers and employees to change certain clauses in awards to suit individual needs. But an IFA specifically cannot be used to reduce an employee’s entitlements.
“One of those entitlements is receiving your wages in money.
“The legislation also requires that an employee is better off with the IFA than without it. But $35 will buy a lot more at a grocery shop than it will at a Racecourse Road cafe.
“The website for Cafe 63 attributes the success of the cafe to its people — ‘hand-picked managers, baristas, chefs and waiters’. Perhaps then, the business should ensure those people receive their legal entitlements.
“At IR Claims, we like to say, if your boss is screwing you at work, don’t take it lying down. In Australia, the law protects employers and employees alike by insisting on a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. If that is not happening in your case, do something about it. The law is there to protect us all.”
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