on air now

‘This is systemic stealing’: MasterChef judge George Calombaris underpaid workers by almost $8 million

(Image: John Sciulli / Stringer)

George Calombaris has been slapped with a $200,000 fine for underpaying workers at his restaurants by almost $8 million.

The celebrity chef has been ordered to make the contrition payment after striking a deal with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

But ACTU president Michele O’Neil says the fine isn’t harsh enough.

“It’s not enough,” she told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“This is systemic stealing from workers.

“If you’re going to make your fortune and your name on the basis of a brand, then you’ve got to take responsibility for the workers in that brand.”

Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said the fine issued to the celebrity chef is the largest fine the watchdog has ever issued.

“We think it’s the right amount,” she told Neil Mitchell.

Mr Calombaris will have to back pay 515 workers from his restaurants — Gazi, Press Club and Hellenic Republic — and another nine employees of Jimmy Grants.

The celebrity chef has already back paid some of the money owed to workers, but there are fears that it may not be possible to locate all of the ripped off workers to repay them.

Ms O’Neil said Mr Calombaris was not concerned about the underpayment until it became a public scandal.

“At the beginning he just wrote it off as a small problem,” she said.

“It was only after the scandal broke and his name and his brand got dragged into it that you started to see reactions.”

Ms O’Neil called for tougher fines for employers caught underpaying workers.

Mr Calombaris has also been ordered to make a series of public statements to promote compliance with workers laws.

Press PLAY below to hear what the ACTU president had to say.

Press PLAY below to hear the Fair Work Ombudsman on 3AW Mornings.