Nepali chef alleges Rockpool Bar and Grill underpaid him, sues them for ‘wage theft’

  • July 21, 2019

Chef Neil Perry/AAP

A ‘proper’ dinner for two at the famous Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne will set you back at least a hundred bucks – and hundreds of patrons have vouched the money is worth it – however, was preparing the meal worth it for a chef? Apparently not.

A Nepali chef, Rohit Karki, working for the prestigious restaurant owned by celebrity chef Neil Perry has filed a legal claim for ‘underpayment’ and ‘mistreatment’. The chef, a migrant worker, claims, he was made to “work more than 70 hours per week, including 20-hour shifts from 4 am to midnight over consecutive days without breaks for $12 an hour.”

Furthermore, the chef also claims he was forced to sleep on a pastry bench between 20 hour shifts and  his work conditions “significantly deteriorated” after his visa sponsorship was secured in 2013. Mr Karki’s claim comes just days after the high-profile business of George Calombaris, a judge at the famous TV show, Masterchef Australia paid back staff $7.8 million for underpayments. The Federal Court claim – through Maurice Blackburn Lawyers – covers six years of alleged underpayment from 2012 until Mr Karki resigned in March, 2019.

Worker exploitation: 

Several leading media outlets have exposed the prevalent practice of exploiting migrant workers within the hospitality sector in Australia. The working conditions as described by Mr. Karki horrific. “I slept several nights at Rockpool on a pastry bench because there was no way I could go home and come back in time,” he told The Sunday Age. His statement comes in reference to his back to back long shifts – he would have finished a gruelling 20 hour shift from 4 a.m. to midnight. He could not go home because his next shift was due in 4 hours.

Karki also alleges he took up the matter with Rockpool – complaining about his underpayment and treatment in November, 2018, however was then bullied and pressured to resign.

Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein claims Rockpool has committed several serious contraventions of the award and Fair Work Act.

“This is another Dickensian example of wage theft and exploitation of vulnerable workers that is all too common in the hospitality industry,” Mr Bornstein said in a statement on Sunday.

Maurice Blackburn is seeking compensation for Mr Karki in the Federal Court of Australia and “significant penalties” to be paid by Rockpool for contraventions of the Fair Work Act.