FAIR WORK FINES "UNCOOPERATIVE" CAFE AT VARSITY

FAIR WORK FINES "UNCOOPERATIVE" CAFE AT VARSITY

VARSITY Lakes café The Hub has received fines worth $84,500 for obstructing a Fair Work investigation and underpaying employees, less than three months after it was fined $29,000 for poor hygiene practices.

The Fair Work Ombudsman began investigating The Hub in 2012 and discovered that nine employees were underpaid a total of $16,881 between December 2011 and December 2012.

Judge Michael Jarrett says the café operators were penalised for a campaign of "obfuscation", where they were "entirely uncooperative" and "highly evasive."

"A series of appointments were made and were either rescheduled or simply not kept," he says.

"The flagrant disregard of [Fair Work] attempts to investigate and resolve this matter call for a high penalty."

The short-changed employees were back-paid in June 2013, with The Hub now required to undertake a self-audit of its 2013-14 financial year pay practices and report back to Fair Work within three months.

Manager Graham John Bell was fined $14,500, while his family company was fined $70,000.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says The Hub's "complete lack of co-operation" forced her office to resolve the matter in court.

"Our first preference is always to work with employers to assist them to rectify their non-compliance co-operatively, but we will not tolerate employers not taking our correspondence and demands seriously," she says.

In December 2014, The Hub was charged under the Food Standards Code after a council environmental health officer found unclean contact equipment and cockroaches inside the premises.

The total fines of $29,000 almost doubled the previous record for penalties under the Code.

The Hub has been contacted for comment.

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