A day after a MasterChef episode filmed contestants cooking at George Calombaris’ Press Club, news has emerged that he has admitted to underpaying $7.83 million in wages to 515 current and former employees of MAdE.
The Age reports the full extent of the underpayment scandal has dwarfed initial estimates from April 2017, when his company MAdE Establishment announced that 162 workers had been underpaid $2.6 million because of “historically poor processes”.
Calombaris has now been ordered to make a $200,000 “contrition payment” and must also make a series of public statements to promote compliance with the Fair Work Act, according to an enforceable undertaking. Calombaris is a founding and current shareholder of MAdE Establishment, who served as a director from 2008 to last year.
In a statement he said, “We apologise to all our affected team members, past and present – as it is our people that make our restaurants great, and it is our priority to ensure all of our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their roles.”
MAdE Group Chief Executive Officer, Leigh Small said all current team members were now correctly classified and new processes and procedures had been put in place to further strengthen the group’s reputation as an employer of choice.
Calombaris has also attracted media attention for a stoush with an A-League fan and a neighbourhood feud over renovations at his Toorak home.
Following the salary scandal Unions NSW tweeted: “Hey @Masterchef, we know you don’t support chefs ripping off their workers, and that you would never endorse a chef underpaying their staff millions of dollars. So why is Calombaris on your payroll?”
ACTU President Michele O’Neil told 3AW the $200,000 fine was insufficient punishment.
“This is systematic stealing from workers who are doing a great job,” she said.
“Making not only beautiful food but building this man his profile and his profit.”
In 2017 when salary issues emerged 10 said, “George Calombaris and his team at MAdE are dealing with the incorrect payments made to employees to ensure every affected employee receives their full entitlements. George has the full support of Network TEN.”
A Network 10 spokesperson today said: “George and MAdE Establishment have reached an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to this matter. George has the support of Network 10.
“We will not be making any further comment.”