George Calombaris has been supported in the mainstream media by some heavy hitting mates and business contacts. Former employees say he has not been very much interested in paying back what he owes them
Former workers of MasterChef judge George Calombaris have renewed calls for him to be dumped from the program amid claims they have still not been back paid for lost wages.
As Calombaris gears up for Tuesday night’s MasterChef grand finale, workers have told Daily Mail Australia he is continuing to dupe Australians.
Former Hellenic Republic waiter Aidan Carter said the MasterChef judge had scant regard for his workers’ mental health.
‘It is quite poisonous – it’s a hard thing on everyone’s mental health I think. There would be so many issues within the industry,’ he said.
Mr Carter worked at Calombaris’ restaurant for five years – four of which he claimed he was underpaid.
The ex-employee said like many in the hospitality industry, he worked anywhere up to 55 hours a week, but was paid for just 38.
Others had worked up to 70.
He was also short paid on dodgy casual rates.
When he worked out his actual rights under the award, he had missed out on significant back pay.
‘I think they are putting out the message that everyone has been paid, but there is a small group of us who have been in contact (with the company) for at least 18 months now and I’m really getting no response,’ he said.
Mr Carter said it felt as if Calombaris’ company, Made Establishment, was ignoring the issue.
One employee was unable to even obtain their full-time pay slips, Mr Carter said.
‘They’re really stalling it. In the past they really hoped it would go away and now it’s obviously resurfaced again, but it hasn’t really kicked them into action unfortunately and it’s upsetting to see that the image he’s selling that people are believing everyone has been paid and it’s over now, but there are still people fighting for payments,’ he said.
Former Hellenic Republic waiter Aidan Carter told Daily Mail Australia Calombaris was certainly no angel and had scant regard for his workers’ mental health
Former workers from Calombaris’ restaurants have joined the union fight against “Wage Theft’. Heading the fight is former Hellenic Republic waitress Orlaith Belfrage (centre)
As the fallout from the wage scandal continues, it has been reported today that Tourism WA has dumped Calombaris from its latest campaign.
But the chef has received widespread support in the mainstream Melbourne media, including gushing stories by the Herald Sun – a previous business partner of MasterChef – The Age and Triple M’s Eddie McGuire.
Mr Carter said Channel 10 should consider dumping Calombaris from MasterChef for a chef who does the right thing.
‘Chefs who are doing the right thing should be rewarded. The people who are real beacons for the hospitality industry, somebody who has a really positive image and somebody who promotes the law basically and promotes the idea of everyone being paid,’ he said.
Former Hellenic Republic waiter Aidan Carter continues to fight George Calombaris’ company over unpaid holiday leave loading. He claims the company has practically ignored workers
Former Hellenic Republic waitress Orlaith Belfrage said Calombaris should pay ‘a serious price’ for the wage theft.
‘He should be taken off MasterChef. How many more excuses does George get?’ she said.
Mr Carter said Calombaris’ company had been making ‘low ball’ offers to staff it ripped off to reduce it’s debt.
‘I was offered an amount of $1400 for part of my casual back pay and one of my colleagues was offered around $400. They ended up calculating themselves that it was a bit over $2000 that they were actually owed,’ he said.
‘One worker was offered about $900 and they were owed about $7000-$8000.’
Former Hellenic Republic waitress Orlaith Belfrage has stood firmly against George Calombaris and continues to call for his dumping from MasterChef
Former Hellenic Republic worker Josh Jameson told Daily Mail Australia he had been ignored over his wage claims for years.
‘When I was full time I was as something else and also never got paid for the hours I worked over 38 from what I’m aware. And then when I was part time for a year – same deal, categorised differently,’ he said.
‘It’s taken over two years and the Fairwork ombudsman for them to finally start chatting back.’
Mr Jameson said he was frustrated by Calombaris’ nice guy public image while he secretly robbed employees.
Former workers from Calombaris’ restaurants have joined the union fight against “Wage Theft’. Heading the fight is former Hellenic Republic waitress Orlaith Belfrage (left)
‘I have a pretty funny memory of him rolling up in his fancy Maserati or whatever it was saying how we’re his family. But then this happens. It makes you think would you actually do that to your “family”?’ he said.
Leyla Varela told Daily Mail Australia Calombaris was paying her a rate that would have made it illegal for her to sell alcohol.
‘Back pay never paid. Complete lack of acknowledgement after telling me that I must not have been selling alcohol. This is after I had to give them my RSA when I was employed, attended countless mandatory alcohol trainings, literally drank Ouzo at customers tables,’ she said.
‘I’m now just so frustrated to hear that he’s saying “we’re paying everyone back, I just didn’t understand” – it’s an outright lie … My heart goes out to everyone experiencing mental health issues, but if they are caused because you’ve been found out for ripping off everyone that works for you?’
Mr Carter said the entire hospitality industry needed to take note of what was happening to Calombaris.
‘It’s the hospitality industry. A lot of people still think that’s normal. If he’s going to remain on MasterChef he needs to be the person who … should use that opportunity to say “The hospitality industry is hard, but we need to change it”,’ Mr Carter said.
Ms Varela agreed.
‘It’s not just him, It’s almost everyone in hospitality that is ripping people off,’ she said.
‘But if you’re going to make enormous amounts of money by being the figure head of an industry on a show like MasterChef, as well as being a martyr about how he wants to help “be a part of the change” – then you have to show some responsibility.’
A magazine cover featuring George Calombaris last weekend was slammed on social media after it appeared to portray him as angelic. The editor later claimed the story had been written before the MasterChef judge was fined last week for short paying employees
Controversy continued to follow the embattled chef last weekend after he was portrayed as angelic on a magazine cover.
Good Weekend magazine – owned by Nine Entertainment and appearing in The Age and SMH newspapers – featured the celebrity chef on the front cover as part of a story on mental health and the hospitality industry.
The MasterChef host appeared on the front with his eyes closed and the words ‘It saved me at a point in my life where I hit darkness’ in the form of a halo over his head.
The gushing yarn came just two days after the Fair Work Ombudsman fined Calombaris $200,000 for his chain’s underpaying workers $7.8 million in wages.
Good Weekend editor Katrina Strickland later said the story was printed before the ruling emerged.
‘I know I know, George Calombaris on the cover. Not ideal – the perils of early print deadlines,’ she wrote in an Instagram post.