A number of restaurants and cafes along one of Melbourne’s most iconic laneways have been accused of underpaying staff after an independent review and campaign by hospitality workers union Hospo Voice, which labelled the street a “den of thieves”.
Five different businesses on Degraves Street in Melbourne’s CBD have been accused of underpaying six workers over $50,000 collectively, with some employees allegedly on wages as low as $11 per hour.
News.com.au reports one worker was underpaid over $18,000 in wages and super by a popular cafe along the strip. Yesterday, Hospo Voice took to the laneway to protest the alleged underpayments, demanding the Fair Work Ombudsman investigate cafes on the street.
“It’s hard to find a tourist brochure that doesn’t include a photo of Degraves Street,” Victorian secretary of United Voice Jess Walsh told news.com.au.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
“Yet little do the tourists who visit this famous laneway know, it’s a meat-grinder that tears through hospitality workers, preying on the youngest and most vulnerable workers.”
One of the stores alleged to have underpaid worker Maggie Stecher-Keyland is cafe and bakehouse Tiny Cupcakes, which Stecher-Keyland alleges underpaid her over $18,000.
“There was zero respect, they made me feel so disposable,” Stecher-Keyland told news.com.au.
“You just get used to it, because the majority of venues in the street are doing the same thing.”
Another former Tiny Cupcakes worker accused the business of underpaying her over $7,000.
However, one of the owners of Tiny Cupcakes on Degraves Street Karan Punkabi told Seven News the claims were completely false.
“We’ve paid everything and whatever according to the awards program,” Punjabi told Seven News.
“If she’s asked for the pay rise and it’s according to the program, we would have given the pay rise.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman has confirmed it is looking into the alleged underpayments, and it’s not the first time the watchdog has cracked down on popular shopping districts around Australia.
SmartCompany contacted Tiny Cupcakes but did not receive a response prior to publication.