The owners of Barry Café in Melbourne have blamed Google for underpaying their workers.
The café has admitted underpaying staff and not providing legal break times.
However, they say they researched information about their workplace obligations from Google.
The United Voice Union recently publicly named and shamed Barry Café.
The campaign involved a noisy protest outside the venue which attracted widespread media coverage.
Barry Café owners blame Google
Anne Petroulias said that Barry is the first café she and her brother Steve owned.
She claims they had been told it was lawful to trade weekend penalty rates for staff meals, however, it is not.
“We had no idea about wage rates or anything,” she said.
“My brother looked on Google, and got the wage rates.
“I know we did wrong and we want to rectify anything.”
It is unlawful to pay wages in anything other than money.
Café targeted by protests
As a result of the wage theft, angry staff and members of the United Voice Union this week protested outside Barry Café.
They claim the employer underpaid them with below award rates, in addition to failing to pay penalty rates and overtime.
They also claim managers only allowed 15-minute breaks.
Furthermore, management refused shifts to staff who complained about their illegal working conditions.
Café loses business
Petroulias said the café has lost customers as a result of the wide negative publicity.
“The value of our business has really gone to zero.
“We paid a lot of money to come here a year and a half ago and it’s all borrowed money.
“We are going to lose our house because of that. And we don’t know what to do. It’s really difficult for us.”
Petroulias and her brother promised to pay back the outstanding wages and assured staff that breaks will now be half an hour instead of 15-minutes.
Owners breached multiple workplace laws
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims says Petroulias and her brother have breached multiple workplace laws.
“If you can’t afford to pay your staff legal entitlements, and if you don’t know your workplace obligations, then you shouldn’t be in business,” he said.
“It shouldn’t take a public name and shame campaign to make employers do the right thing.”
Mr Heffernan also noted the Fair Work Ombudsman has extensive online resources to assist employers understand their workplace obligations.
“Arguing that you tried to just Google the information is a pathetic cop-out quite frankly,” he said.
Owners threaten to sue protesters
In yet another twist to the Barry Café saga, Steve Petroulias has threatened to sue staff who continue to protest.
The Fair Work Ombudsman confirmed it is investigating the underpayments.
“BARRY CAFE DELIBERATE WAGE THEFT ENDS WITH $232,000 IN PENALTIES”
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