George Calombaris may have apologised to his staff and the nation at large on Wednesday night, but at least one former employee isn’t having a bar of it.
Orlaith Belfrage, who was formerly an employee at George’s Hellenic Republic restaurant and is now an organiser with the Hospo Voice union, told the ABC’s John Faine she thought the interview was ’disingenuous at best’.
"I don't [feel loved]. I don't feel adored, either. I feel actually ignored,” Orlaith said, adding she had a very good reason for feeling that way.
The ex-employee claims she still hasn’t been paid what she’s owed. In her case, she says she’s owed as much as $2000 in unpaid wages.
However, the explosive claims refute George’s insistence on 7:30 that he has ‘fixed’ the problem.
“We owned up, we paid up, and we did that two years ago... we fixed it,” the chef told Leigh Sales.
Orlaith also concurred with irate viewers who slammed the interview as being too ‘soft’, and ‘easy’ on George.
“I was a bit taken aback by how much we had to listen to his emotional state, which I had pretty much no interest,” she said, adding she thought the chef deserved ‘tougher’ questions from Leigh Sales.
The scandal four years in the making
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George was recently ordered to pay a $200,000 ‘contrition payment’ after FairWork found he had underpaid $7.83 million in wages.
The celebrity chef also had to repay the outstanding debt to workers which he says he has.
The scandal comes after a four-year investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman into George’s company, Made Establishment.
Staff from Made Establishment complained to the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2015, and in April 2017, the company put the underpayment figure at a much smaller $2.6 million.
They also said only 162 workers were affected by the ‘poor’ payment processes.
Begging for business
On Wednesday night’s interview, the embattled former MasterChef judge pleaded with customers to keep business going at his restaurants, for the sake of the staff.
“I love the people that have worked for me and I don’t want them to suffer right now,” he told Leigh Sales with a shaky voice.
“Great restaurants are voted by bums on seats and obviously... don’t punish my people.
“Just know that when you come into one of our restaurants, know when you pay the bill, that those, my people, are getting paid and paid correctly.”
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