Food Precincts campaign returns $450k+ in wages owed to hospitality workers

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s audit of three popular food destinations has recovered $471,904 for 616 workers, after the FWO found that 72 per cent of the 243 businesses audited had breached workplace laws.

Fair Work inspectors visited businesses in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane – interviewing staff and checking businesses’ employment records.

The FWO deployed a range of compliance and enforcement tools against more than one hundred non-compliant businesses during the audit campaign, including:

  • commencing legal action against the Meatball & Wine Bar Pty Ltd for allegedly underpaying 26 employees at its Melbourne CBD and Collingwood restaurants;
  • issuing 71 infringement notices (on-the-spot fines);
  • issuing 63 formal cautions; and
  • issuing seven compliance notices.

The most common breaches related to underpayment of workers base hourly rates (38 per cent), with inadequate or non-existent employment records and pay slips another common trend (28 per cent). Other common issues included non-provision of meal breaks, incorrectly classified workers and non-payment of overtime.

The FWO commenced the campaign as part of its ongoing program of intelligence-led audits into more well-known, high-risk sectors of the hospitality industry.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said, “We are pleased the Food Precincts Campaign has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being put back in the pockets of workers, and sent a definitive message to those employers who are doing the wrong thing.”

Ms James added, “While disappointed by the high levels of non-compliance uncovered in the sample of businesses audited, we are not surprised…Our experience is that addressing entrenched, cultural non-compliance requires a combination of regulatory intervention, public awareness and industry leadership. We have demonstrated this in sectors such as trolley collection and cleaning as well as within service networks and supply chains such as 7-Eleven and Baiada Poultry.”

Ms James said that the FWO is engaging with leaders in hospitality sector to step up and work with them to develop an integrated approach to turning around this sector.

“This is an industry-wide problem and it needs an industry-wide response. There are over 50,000 cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets in Australia and the FWO cannot fix this one café at a time.”

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