Rockpool Dining Group Ipo

Rockpool dining group ipo

Rockpool Dining Group, a giant in the hospitality and dining scene, has been accused of “one of the most egregious cases of wage theft Australia has seen yet” by a law firm alleging the company has underpaid its workers at least $10 million.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has formally referred the company — with an annual turnover of $400 million — to the Fair Work Ombudsman after calculating they owe workers at least $10 million.

Hospo Voice, an advocate group for hospitality workers, raised their concerns about the restaurant group with the law firm after it received numerous complaints from current and former employees.

Rockpool Dining Group is fronted by celebrity chef Neil Perry and owned by Quadrant Private Equity Group, but there are no allegations against him personally.

The dining group has 80 venues across the country, employing 2500 staff at some of Australia’s top restaurants including Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Sake.

Neil Perry at RockPool Dining Group

The company also owns restaurant chains Fratelli Fresh, The Bavarian, Burger Project and Munich Brauhaus.

Former chef Rohit Karki claimed he was subject to exhausting shifts and poor treatment as soon as he started working at one of the group’s restaurants in 2012.

“I was treated like an animal.

Like a slave,” he said.

“Each week I did two 20-hour shifts, back to back.

Rockpool dining group ipo

I’d start at 4am and work until midnight or later, without a break. Then at 4am, I’d start all over again and do another 20 hours.

“There was no time to go home between shifts, so I slept on a pastry bench in the kitchen for a couple of hours.

“They tampered with our timesheets, so staff had no record of all the hours we worked.

“I was paid about $12 per hour, while people paid hundreds of dollars a head to eat the meals I prepared.

“I felt trapped.

Rockpool dining group ipo

I went into a depression. It was the darkest period in my life. But eventually I complained about this wage theft and how Rockpool treated me.

Rockpool dining group ipo

Then I was bullied out of my job.

“In all, I have had hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from me by the Rockpool Dining Group, and I want it back.”

Just last year, the restaurant group agreed to pay back $1.5 million in overtime to its workers however today’s figure dwarfs the 2018 backpayment.

Rockpool reported a $40 million profit last year.

Hospo Voice and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers also allege the company deliberately tampered with timesheets — created from fingerprint scanners staff used to clock on and off — to make it seem as if staff only worked 38 hour weeks.

The legal team also alleges the group exploited vulnerable migrant workers, with workers fearing they would lose sponsorship if they spoke out.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Lawyer Josh Bornstein called on the Fair Work Ombudsman to prosecute Rockpool.

“Following the Calombaris debacle, the Ombudsman must now prosecute Rockpool and go for the maximum fines available to salvage its reputation as a regulator,” Mr Bornstein said.

Fellow celebrity chef George Calombaris repaid workers $7.8 million earlier this year and lost his job as a judge on MasterChef after his company Made Establishment Group was caught committing wage theft.

In a statement, Rockpool Dining Group confirmed the company was engaged with the Fair Work Ombudsman directly and said it continued to “assess historical wage practices”.

“The allegations attributed to Maurice Blackburn are extremely serious in nature but have only been put to us by (The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) and with no substantiation or detail, despite what has been reported,” the statement read.

“We believe the article published by (the publications) includes false and misleading information and includes allegations by parties with limited knowledge of relevant facts.

Rockpool dining group ipo

These allegations have been made without any substantiation.”

The company said it takes the allegations “very seriously” and encouraged its staff to report their concerns to them.