The operator of a Melbourne burger bar is facing the Federal Circuit Court after allegedly exploiting seven young and overseas workers a total of $7,113.
Todd Patrick Buzza owns and runs the Burger Buzz outlet on Sydney Road in Brunswick, and formerly operated another outlet on Peel Street in West Melbourne. Buzza’s company, Rum Runner Trading, is also facing court.
It’s alleged that the underpayments occurred between January and April 2015. Four of the workers were from France, the US, Britain and the Netherlands – in Australia on working holiday visas – while the other three were Australian and included two 19 year olds.
They were allegedly underpaid for short periods of work – between five days and two weeks – across the two Burger Buzz outlets. Three workers were allegedly paid nothing for work performed, while four were allegedly paid a fraction of what they were entitled to.
The individual underpayments range from $452 to $1,522.
It’s also alleged that Buzza and his company failed to comply with seven Compliance Notices requesting the workers be backpaid, and three Notices to Produce employment records. Workplace laws relating to pay-slips and providing new employees with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement were allegedly also breached.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James said Buzza’s business has been the subject of a number of previous underpayment allegations from employees, and inspectors had formally advised him of minimum pay obligations on at least two occasions in 2014.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has also commenced a new investigation after receiving requests for assistance in May this year from two young workers who claim they were underpaid at the Brunswick Burger Buzz outlet.
“We are concerned that the allegations made by a series of workers suggest a pattern of non-compliant behaviour,” James said.
“We prefer to assist employers to rectify non-compliance issues, but we are prepared to take legal action against employers who refuse to co-operate.”
Buzza faces maximum penalties ranging from $5400 to $10,800 per contravention and Rum Runner Trading Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $27,000 to $54,000 per contravention.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders for Buzza and his company to back-pay the employees in full and for them to comply with the Notices to Produce so inspectors can complete the investigation.
A directions hearing is scheduled for the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on 19 July.