SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian celebrity chef said on Thursday he had underpaid hundreds of his restaurant employees by nearly A$8 million ($5.62 million) over six years.
George Calombaris – who shot to worldwide fame through his role on the television show “Masterchef” – said he would repay 515 current and former employees who were underpaid between 2011 and 2017.
“We apologize to all our affected team members, past and present,” Calombaris said in a statement.
“It is our priority to ensure all of our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their roles.”
The underpayments came to light after a four-year investigation by Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman, which looks into workplace complaints
Calombaris was also fined A$200,000 as part of a “contrition payment”.
Australia’s hospitality union, United Voice, criticized the fine as too small.
“If someone deliberately took $1,000 out of someone else’s bank account, there would be a high likelihood of a criminal conviction for theft,” the union’s national secretary, Jo-anne Schofield, said in a statement.
“But when you’re a multimillionaire restaurateur, celebrity chef, you can take $7.83 million in wages from your workers and get away with a contrition payment.”
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Robert Birsel