Hospitality

Major fried chicken franchise hit with surprise FWO audits over reported underpayments

Dominic Powell /

Fried chicken franchise Gami Chicken and Beer has been pinned by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for a number of surprise audits, with the workplace watchdog’s investigators heading into 19 stores across the franchises’ Melbourne, Sydney and Perth locations yesterday.

The FWO says it had received a number of complaints from current and former employees about the business, claiming issues such as underpayments, not paying penalty rates, and failure to provide payslips.

The restaurant chain was founded in 2006 by four friends “sitting around with a beer in our hands”, with the goal of bringing the popular Korean fried chicken dishes to Australia. Co-founder Jun Lee told SmartCompany in November last year the company turned over nearly $25 million in the 2017 financial year, and also said the company’s franchisees are given significant support to help them get started.

“Our future growth relies on the revenue of each individual store growing, it has to be brand-wide. We want to help our franchisees make more money,” Lee told SmartCompany last year.

However, fair work ombudsman Sandra Parker said the watchdog was dedicated to cracking down on any alleged non-compliance.

“Like many people working in the fast-food sector, Gami Chicken and Beer staff are potentially vulnerable due to their age, cultural background or visa status. It is important for us to talk with these workers on the ground so they are aware of their workplace rights and that we can help them,” Parker said in a statement.

In a statement to SmartCompany, a spokesperson for Gami said the allegations raised by the employees and the FWO had only recently been brought to the company’s attention, and the business would cooperate fully with the investigation.

“At GAMI Chicken & Beer, we place paramount importance on treating all our employees fairly and equally. We are committed to ensuring that all our stores and our franchisees operate with the utmost integrity and represent our brand appropriately,” the spokesperson said.

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations. We are currently looking into the allegations internally and will also take every step to assist the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Office in its investigation on this matter.”

The FWO has noted the hospitality industry as one of interest for the watchdog, noting it was over-represented in complaints to the FWO last year, making up a third of court actions and nearly 40% of all anonymous reports.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany. Email him at [email protected].

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