Rockpool Dining Group (RDG) has been accused of rampant exploitation of vulnerable workers, with lawyers demanding the Neil Perry fronted hospitality group be hit with severe financial penalties.
In a complaint made on behalf of the union Hospo Voice, labour law firm Maurice Blackburn has alleged that Rockpool destroyed and doctored timesheets to cover up underpayment, describing it as for one of the “most egregious cases of wage theft” seen in Australia, according to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald.
The law firm is demanding that substantial penalties are paid directly to each employee who has been “subject to unlawful conduct”, which if enforced could total many millions of dollars.
The allegations include claims that staff had been told to alter time keeping records on internal systems, and that staff also witnessed managers doing the same, so the working hours recorded were reduced to 38 hours a week to comply with workplace laws.
The law firm estimates that workers may have been underpaid more than $10 million, but concedes the true figure may never be known due to the “destruction” of hourly records and a “deficient” audit by PwC of the underpayments.
“Based on information provided, Rockpool has been caught falsifying the time sheet records of staff in order to cheat them out of their wages,” Maurice Blackburn’s national head of employment law, Josh Bornstein, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
The high-end restaurant group is currently being investigated by the Ombudsman over underpayment allegations. The company has since paid back $1.6 million for one year’s underpayment and a further unknown total for repayments stretching back a further five years.
In a statement, Rockpool has emphatically denied the accusations, saying it has not been provided any submission by Maurice Blackburn and Hospo Voice regarding the claims.
“The allegations attributed to Maurice Blackburn are extremely serious in nature, but have only been put to us by Fairfax and with no substantiation or detail, despite what has been reported,” they stated.
“We believe the article published by Fairfax includes false and misleading information and includes allegations by parties with limited knowledge of relevant facts. These allegations have been made without any substantiation.
“RDG has no evidence to substantiate claims of group wide manipulation or destruction of data in order to intentionally underpay employees.
“RDG continues to assess historical wage practices and remains committed to addressing legacy practices.”