Simon Crowe founder of Grill’d sent an urgent email to employees regarding the media coverage of the blasts on training scheme
Grill’d burger chain is under fire for allegedly underpaying employees as part of its’ $7million apprenticeship program paid for by taxpayers.
Several ex-employees have spoken out about the scheme, which has been slammed as ‘corporate welfare’.
Some said they were forced to complete the mandatory training, which in some cases took over two years, and were allegedly short paid up to $4300 in wages.
Grill’d have ‘strongly denied’ the training scheme is a ploy to underpay their staff or exploit government hand outs.
The founder of the franchise Simon Crowe sent a message to staff last week warning of a ‘pending media story’ regarding the training program.
The message was posted to twitter by an employee, and comes promptly after the Fair Work Ombudsman confirmed they were investigating the chain.
Trainee workers are awarded with a certificate from vocational education provider Sarina Russo upon completing the training, earning just $14.50 per hour which is $1.50 below the minimum wage.
An ex Grill’d employee told News.com.au ‘The training was really, really easy – literally like four hours’ work – but it took me almost two years to get it completed.’
The woman claims she was underpaid $4300 because she was paid on the trainee wage.
The previous Grill’d employee also spoke of how the franchise failed to explain the training program to her, saying only that training was compulsory to work there and that her wage would increase when training was completed.
She was earning just $14.50 per hour at 18 years old when she began working for the chain.
Her wage gradually increased to $16 per hour, then $17 per hour before she was finally earning the normal wage of $19 per hour upon finishing her training.
She criticised the companies ‘blatant stalling’ saying: ‘I wasn’t able to log onto the system, you would contact the regional guy, he wouldn’t get back to you.’
She also told of how employees were required to complete work at each station to complete the training, but claimed the company made it impossible to do so.
‘A lot of the (training) was for the servery (kitchen). I was stuck on the floor for the first one-and-a-half years, never in the kitchen. There would always be excuses.’
Finally, the former employee revealed the company’s startling policy that if members of staff questioned the training or any other breach of contract, they automatically had their hours cut.
She left the chain a few months ago due to her mental health.
One mother of another former Grill’d worker told news.com.au that her son quit after six months of working for Grill’d but the company still received a $6000 subsidy for employing him, branding the company a ‘corporate welfare.’
The mother detailed how ‘government money is being chucked around for no purpose’, with her son made to do the training despite working part time alongside his studies.
She said that her son was never going to make a career out of hospitality, so the ‘training’ was pointless.
She went on to joke that they called the pointless training the ‘hamburger university’ as her son said the training was a ‘load of rubbish.’
Grill’d burgers has received over $7 million from the government towards training program which sees employers underpaid earning as little as $14.50 per hour
Workers have been made to train for up to two years in the program, earning below the awarded wage until qualified
In a statement, Grill’d denied the trainee program was a money grabbing scheme.
A spokeswoman said: ‘Grill’d’s 2015 enterprise agreement applies to our restaurant teams and is approved by the Fair Work Commission.’
She went on to state that ‘any suggestion that the enterprise agreement is anything but lawful, valid or compliant’ is strongly denied.
The spokeswoman said nearly all entry-level staff were required to do the traineeship before the 2015 agreement, but that now only 31 per cent of all staff were trainees.
She denied claims that the training was mandatory stating that although training remained the preferred point of entry to a career with Grill’d, it was not a condition of employment that team members become trainees.
She did however say that Grill’d encouraged their workers to become trainees and that Grill’d was ‘proud’ of their trainee program.
When questioned about the Official figures which show Grill’d has received a total of $7,057,500 from the federal government’s Apprenticeships Incentives Program, the spokeswoman said that the grants were ‘more than offset by the significant investment made into the curriculum development…’
Figures show that of the start of this month, 1528 apprentices and trainees were undertaking Hospitality Certificates II, III and IV and Retail Certificate III at Grill’d.
The watchdog has confirmed that Grill’d is under current investigation.
Employment Minister Michaelia released a statement saying the ‘underpayment of any worker will not be tolerated by the Morrison government.’
She also said that ‘workers with a complaint should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for assistance’.
Mr Crowe sent an urgent message to staff to alert them of the upcoming criticisms of Grill’d’s training program.
He said: ‘Any suggestion that we have fallen short of our values is one that I take very seriously’ in an email which was posted to Twitter by journalism student Alex Turner-Cohen.
This is not the first time Grill’d has been accused of underpayment as they were taken to Court in 2015
Crowe went on to state in the email that they have ‘worked hard to make Grill’d a place of work that people can enjoy’ and included improvements to the quality of Grill’d training in this.
This is not the first time Grill’d has came under fire.
In 2015 the company agreed to renegotiate contracts after employee took the chain to court for allegedly underpaying.
When contacted by the Daily Mail, a spokesperson for Grill’d refused to comment further and insisted that the figures suggested were not accurate but failed to provide alternative.