Barry Cafe owners fined $232k for deliberately exploiting, underpaying staff


The company that runs Barry Cafe in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote has been fined for deliberately underpaying and exploiting 73 staff members to the tune of more than $180,000 over a 12-month period.

In 2018, the ABC revealed allegations staff were underpaid by at least $5 an hour, and when they tried to discuss their wages with the owners their shifts were cancelled indefinitely.

The Federal Circuit Court has ordered siblings Stavros and Anastasia Petroulias to pay fines totalling $232,545 against the company they part-own and operate.

They were also ordered to rectify the underpayments.

So far the workers have only partially recouped their losses. One worker is still owed $12,315.

The action, run by the Fair Work Ombudsman, found staff had not been paid the penalty rates and casual loadings they were entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award.

Some were also paid at below minimum wage.

The ombudsman said the court found Mr Petroulias and Ms Petroulias had “deliberately contravened workplace laws and exploited staff”, including many young and migrant workers, by paying flat rates of $18 to $25 an hour.

Former staff held a protest about their payments at the cafe in 2018.(ABC News: Jessica Longbottom)

The pair also contravened adverse action laws by not offering shifts to workers who had challenged the low rates of pay.

Ombudsman Sandra Parker warned employers that they were on notice and must pay Australia’s “lawful minimum pay rates”.

“We also treat very seriously instances of employers taking any sort of action against an employee in response to them seeking to have their lawful workplace rights respected,” she said.

Judge Heather Riley said the hospitality sector was “notorious” for the underpayment of employees, and that the exploitation of vulnerable workers was an aggravating feature of the case.

“I do not accept that the respondents are genuinely contrite. Rather, I consider that they are very sorry that they have been caught, and are facing a substantial penalty,” Judge Riley said.

The company has been ordered to commission an independent audit of its payment practices and to provide the results to the Fair Work Ombudsman.



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