Opera Kitchen on notice for staff underpayments

08 September, 2015 by
Aoife Boothroyd

Opera Kitchen, located on the lower concourse of the Sydney Opera House, is being monitored by the Fair Work Ombudsman for staff underpayments and wrongly substituting meals for penalty rates and loadings.

Fair Work released a statement in August this year in relation to an un-named, high profile restaurant on Sydney Harbour that was found to have been underpaying an Italian backpacker who was on a 417 working holiday visa. Workforce Daily now reports that the restaurant in question was in fact Opera Kitchen.

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The Fair Work Ombudsman found that Opera Kitchen, owned by restaurant consultant David Wallace had a ‘flexibility arrangement’ with the Italian backpacker which provided ‘benefits’ in return for the $16.50 flat hourly rate, including discounted staff uniforms, on-the-job training, meals and drinks. However Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said such ‘benefits’ don’t satisfy the restaurant’s workplace obligations under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

A Compliance Notice was issued in August requiring the restaurant to back-pay the former kitchen hand $5,703 and another $386 owed to a former waitress who was also underpaid. On the day the Compliance Notice was due to expire, the restaurant sought and obtained a stay of the Notice to challenge it in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney. In response, the Fair Work Ombudsman sought Court orders requiring the business to set out the grounds for its challenge and for the challenge to progress to a hearing by the Court. The restaurant failed to comply with a requirement to set out the grounds of the challenge, but subsequently agreed to send cheques for the wages and entitlements in the Notice via its solicitors.

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Arrangements have also been made for the money to be paid to the former employees.

Workforce Daily reports that the naming of the restaurant comes as Wallace’s company, SPV Operations Pty Ltd t/a seeks a broad enterprise agreement covering Opera Kitchen along with other premium restaurants that would offset workers’ penalty rates and loadings with training, meal allowances and tips.

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A spokesperson for the Sydney Opera House told Workforce Daily that it is ‘committed to a fair working environment’ and as such is currently investigating the matter with Opera Kitchen.