Rockpool Dining Group's frontman Neil Perry and CEO Thomas Pash

Rockpool Dining Group has denied allegations of wage theft following explosive claims by Fairfax Media that the restaurant juggernaut was “ripping off workers”.

An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age found Rockpool underpaid vulnerable staff members, including migrant employees, who worked up to 70 hours per week in “harsh conditions”. The publications reported that, in extreme cases, skilled chefs had worked “up to 30 hours’ unpaid overtime”.

The investigation covered underpayments at Sake and Munich Brauhaus, with Fairfax Media claiming they viewed emails from management advising workers on how not to record actual hours worked. The Fairfax report also suggested Sake and Munich Brauhaus kept two sets of figures – hours actually worked and hours rostered and paid for.

Rockpool Dining Group CEO Thomas Pash addressed the Fairfax reports in a statement, saying:

“We strenuously refute allegations about Rockpool Dining Group’s payment practices. These allegations are spurious, inaccurate and give an incomplete picture of our practices.”

SMH‘s investigation was based on company pay records, internal management documents, pay slips and hourly records.

Leaked documents allegedly show permanent chefs were earning less than $20 per hour and underpaid up to $800 per week.

Pash denies this, stating permanent employees were remunerated according to or above the industry award.

“They receive annualised salaries, and our practices clearly outline employee compensation for overtime, including time off in lieu,” he said.

“Where an employee is working unreasonable overtime, we will work with that person to pull back their hours and reassign them shifts to manage better their time in line with their role.”

In addition to the wage theft allegations, Fairfax’s report also details extreme fatigue and injuries, with workers reportedly hospitalised for exhaustion and cuts.

“We are not allowed to speak up about our safety concerns,” a chef told SMH. “If we did, we would not be able to stay in the country as our employment would be terminated.”

Rockpool’s statement also contained a response from Neil Perry, the group’s culinary director. “It’s a sad day when a few people try to undermine the amazing work of so many who contribute to making our restaurants great,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Fairwork Ombudsman has confirmed to Hospitality the Ombudsman “will conduct inquiries into this matter”.


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