Politics

Barry Cafe Has Finally Apologised To The Worker Who Called Them Out For Wage Theft

Some good news.

In some rare good news on the topic of wage theft, Barry Cafe has finally reached a settlement with a worker who called them out for their illegally low wages, offering an apology and a commitment to do better.

Back in April, workers protested outside popular Melbourne cafe Barry, alleging that their employers had been illegally underpaying them by as much as $5 per hour below the minimum wage listed in the Restaurant Award. The protest came after cafe owners refused to meet with disgruntled employees as a group, and cancelled the shifts of several workers who pressed for further information.

One of the employees whose shifts were cancelled was waitress Anna Langford, who later received letters from Barry Cafe owner Steve Petroulias threatening to sue her if she continued to speak out about the wages she was owed. With the support of the Young Workers Centre, Anna had planned to instead take her former employer to court for wrongful termination.

But yesterday, four months after Anna was fired and just hours before she was due to file that claim, she and Barry’s owners reached a settlement instead.

“We apologise for the distress that our actions caused to you and your co-workers,” Barry Cafe Management wrote in a letter that formed part of that settlement. “We intend to remedy the underpayments to staff and have undertaken steps to do so.”

Barry Management also wrote that they have “sought specialist advice about the correct pay rates and conditions, and we are applying improvements to our processes and procedures to prevent this happening in the future. We strongly encourage other businesses in the industry to do the same.”

Anna described the result as a rare and exciting win for herself and other workers. “Wage Theft has been such a huge problem in hospitality but we’re turning the tables,” she said. “Cases like mine show that we can win”.

“My message to other young workers is to band together, to challenge unfair and unjust treatment at work and to join their union. I really hope that no other young worker has to go through what I did just to make sure they receive wages they’re legally owed.”

Carita Kazakoff, a solicitor at the Victorian Young Workers Centre who was assisting Anna with her case, said that while the result was promising, there is still more work to be done.

“Anna’s story is the tip of the iceberg. Our desks are overflowing with wage theft cases and I regularly hear stories from workers who’ve been treated unfairly for speaking up. For young workers, getting justice in these cases is hard and takes a long time – in Anna’s case more than four months.”

“Employers need to take their responsibilities seriously. They need to educate themselves about the minimum wages and conditions and know that flouting the law will not be tolerated.”

Still, it’s great to finally see a worker score a win on this issue. If you’re worried about similar issues of wage theft, underpayment or exploitation in your workplace, head over to Fair Work to check the rules and take a look at your options.


Editors note: Anna Langford is not related to Junkee Staff Writer Sam Langford, who wrote this story. You can get in touch with this reporter at [email protected]