Bartenders claim they were paid less than the cocktails they serve By - Anna Patty

Bartenders claim they were paid less than the cocktails they serve
By - Anna Patty

Mitchell Wadsworth is among bartenders at some high-end Melbourne bars who are paid below award rates and less than the price of some of the cocktails they serve.

When he started work in August last year, Mr Wadsworth said he was paid a flat rate of $22 an hour until February this year with the Thank You, Come Again Melbourne Bar Group.

United Voice, the union representing hospitality workers, said the bar group paid workers below the cost of some of its cocktails including the $24 "border control" and the $23 "temple".

The Young Workers Centre in Melbourne has written a letter of demand to the group's Pixel Alley bar for compensation for Mr Wadsworth, who was paid $25 an hour when he left the bartending job in November.

"I knew the award rate was more than what I was getting and I just stuck it out until I could get another job. Trying to find a hospitality job that pays you correctly is hard," he said.


The Thank You, Come Again Melbourne Bar Group, whose other bars include Double Happiness, New Gold Mountain, Lily Blacks and Mr Wow's Emporium, said it disputed "any allegations of wrongdoing".

It said it only received the letter of demand on Tuesday.

"This is the first I have heard about any complaint from Mitchell and we are currently working to resolve this matter," the Bar Group said.

"We have meticulous records of this particular case and will be happy to defend our position at Fair Work Australia."

Another bar worker, Kristian Marshman, said he was paid a flat rate of $22 and then $23 an hour as a casual at four of the bars in the Thank You, Come Again group this year.

He said he started work as a bar tender before taking on more responsibilities and stayed in the job for 18 months mainly because he liked the people he worked with.

"Everybody knows they are being underpaid but it's hard to look for another job when you are working," he said.

Another bar tender, James Lea, received a written offer of employment for $21 an hour to work as a casual at Bar Americano, named in Timeout as one of the world's best bars.

Mr Lea says when he asked for the correct award rate, the offer of employment was withdrawn.

"When I brought up the award rate and penalty rates I was told they were never going to pay that," he said. "I've told Fair Work about this but as I was never employed by the company there's nothing I can really do."

Bar Americana said it withdrew its offer of employment for "other reasons".

United Voice said the minimum award rate for a casual hospitality worker is $24.41 an hour on weekdays, $26.54 after 7pm, $27.60 between 12am and 6am and $29.30 on weekends.

The full-time/part-time rate is less at $19.53 on weekdays, $21.66 after 7pm, $22.72 between 12am and 6am, $24.41 on Saturdays and $29.30 on Sundays.

Unlike casual workers, permanent staff are also entitled to holiday pay, sick leave and long service leave.

United Voice Victorian secretaryJess Walshsaid the union launched a survey called a week ago and had received 500 reviews of hospitality venues.

The responses include complaints of underpayment with some workers claiming to have been paid cash in hand and as little as $3.30 an hour. The union said it had also received 23 claims of alleged sexual harassment including groping, lewd comments, sexting and sexual assault.

"Visitors to Melbourne would be horrified to learn that such brazen wage theft is the business model at some of our famous inner-city bars; that they actually charge more for their cocktails than they pay their staff," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Young Workers Centre said the bar workers it is assisting have "robust evidence that the company paid them a flat hourly rate that did not comply with the pay rates prescribed in theHospitality Industry Award".

"These flat hourly rates do not correctly compensate workers for the duties they performed ... or provide penalty rates for late night and weekend work,” she said.

"Young people have a right to expect that they will be paid according to their Award or [Enterprise Bargaining Agreement]."


10 months ago

By Padkaneya

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