George Calombaris’ final insult to his staff: Workers only found out they were jobless when MasterChef star posted on Instagram – as furious union boss slams him over ‘shameless stealing’ of wages
- Workers employed by the restaurant empire only found out news on social media
- Twelve Melbourne venues closed this week as company went into administration
- One staff member said they hadn’t ‘been told anything’ prior to the public post
- ACTU boss also slammed chef for not being prepared to run ‘fair, legal’ business
- Administrators are now hoping to find potential buyers for affected restaurants
Workers employed by George Calombaris’ doomed restaurant empire only found out they had lost their job when he posted about the collapse on Instagram.
Twelve Melbourne venues closed their doors this week after the celebrity chef’s MAdE Establishment was put into voluntary administration on Monday, leaving about 400 workers in limbo.
He continues to come under fire this week in the wake of the announcement – the culmination of months of scrutiny for the company after it emerged last year its staff had been underpaid $7.8million.
George Calombaris’ has come under fire after it emerged workers employed by his doomed restaurant empire only found out they had lost their job when he posted about the collapse on Instagram
The celebrity chef is pictured with wife Natalie Tricarico in 2017
Speaking via the United Workers Union, one anonymous staff member said they were furious they had not been told about the collapse before Calombaris’ Instagram post.
‘We had to learn the company was going into administration via George’s post on Instagram,’ the staff member.
‘I feel very angry about what’s happened. We haven’t been told anything.’
The worker also claimed while wages and superannuation entitlements had been paid up to Sunday, annual leave was still outstanding.
‘I may have to go home if I can’t keep this job,’ the anonymous employee in Australia on a temporary visa said.
ACTU president Michele O’Neil meanwhile accused Calombaris of ‘shameless’ behaviour.
Claiming Calombaris ‘stole $8 million from the people who do the hard work in his restaurants’, Ms O’Neil accused him in a Facebook video on Wednesday of being ‘the poster boy for the employers that were campaigning to cut penalty rates to workers’.
Twelve Melbourne venues closed their doors this week as the celebrity chef announced MAdE Establishment was put into voluntary administration on Monday
‘So now more than 400 jobs on the line, at risk because George wasn’t prepared to run a fair legal business where he paid workers what they were entitled to,’ she said.
‘But do you think anything has happened to George? Is he being disqualified, is he being de-registered? No, we don’t have a law for that.’
Administrators Craig Shepard and Leanne Chesser hope to find buyers for the businesses quickly so some of the staff may keep their jobs under new operators.
‘We could have them ready to go by Monday,’ Mr Shepard told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Declining patronage and an inability to turn the business around forced Calombaris to close his Made Establishment Group.
The decision came after it emerged last year staff were back-paid $7.8 million in wages and superannuation in 2017.
The closed-down Hellenic Republic restaurant is pictured in Brunswick on Tuesday. ACTU president Michele O’Neil accused Calombaris of ‘shameless’ behaviour over his handling of MAdE Establishment
Employees have been paid outstanding wages and superannuation up to Sunday, the administrators have been told.
But the administrators KordaMentha will have to verify that claim after reports emerged of some workers not having been paid their annual leave.
If the business cannot pay those entitlements through recovered funds, workers may be forced to apply for what they are owed through a Fair Work guarantee scheme.
Oanh Tran, head of the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s legal centre, said MAdE workers on temporary migrant visas may be forced to leave Australia.
‘There are going to be at least some, and probably many, who are in that really vulnerable position.’
KordaMentha and the unions don’t know how many workers are on those visas but the United Workers Union, which covers hospitality workers, says at least one has approached them anonymously.
Timeline of Calombaris’ woes
MAY 15, 2014 – The Department of Health investigates after diners who ate at the Hellenic Republic at Kew fell ill. It is later confirmed norovirus affected about 100 people
APRIL, 2017 – It’s revealed about $2.6 million in back payments were dished out to 162 workers employed by Made Establishment because of payroll ‘discrepancies’ dating back to 2011.
MAY 10, 2017 – Calombaris is charged with assault over a fight with a 19-year-old at an A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in Sydney a few days earlier
MAY 16, 2017 – Melbourne man David Peter Schreuder sues the Hellenic Republic restaurant and Made Establishment group over the norovirus encephalitis outbreak
AUGUST 17, 2017 – The chef pleads guilty to assault over the A-League incident
SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 – He hands in his Melbourne Victory No. 1 ticket due to the assault
OCTOBER 20, 2017 – Calombaris is fined $1000 for the A-League assault
FEBRUARY 1, 2018 – His assault conviction is overturned on appeal after a District Court judge agreed with Calombaris’ lawyer that he had suffered significant financial and personal loss, and was unlikely to re-offend
JULY 18, 2019 – The Fair Work Ombudsman fines the MasterChef Australia judge and his Made Establishment company $200,000 for underpaying staff at his restaurants by nearly $8 million
JULY 22, 2019 – The West Australian government suspends its tourism campaign featuring Calombaris over the Fair Work Obudsman fine
JULY 23, 2019 – Calombaris and fellow judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan leave MasterChef after contract negotiations fail
FEBRUARY 10, 2020 – Made falls into voluntary administration