Politics

Young Workers At This Melbourne Burger Joint Are Protesting Against Underpayment

One employee worked for a month without getting paid.

Former staff of Melbourne burger store Burger Buzz have protested outside the Sydney Road restaurant this afternoon to try and pressure the shop’s owner into paying staff who are allegedly owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.

The owner of Brunswick Burger Buzz, Todd Buzza, has been pursued several times by Fair Work for underpaying his workers. Last year Fair Work initiated legal action against Buzza for underpaying employees by more than $7,000.

In another case, Fair Work alleged further underpayment impacting another group of five employees. According to Fair Work Buzza paid staff below the minimum wage, failed to pay penalty rates and denied staff their legally mandated breaks. Despite being repeatedly warned by Fair Work, and pursued through the courts, he is yet to pay back any of his staff.

Earlier this week Brunswick Burger Buzz suddenly shut down, prompting fears that workers would never receive their pay. That concern is what led to today’s protest, organised with support from the Young Worker’s Centre.

One former worker, 19-year-old Danni, said he was never paid by Buzza despite working at the burger shop for a month. He claims he’s owed more than $1,200 dollars for the work they did.

While the alleged underpayment had apparently been going on for years it wasn’t until the Young Workers Centre visited a school attended by staff working at Brunswick Burger Buzz that employees were able to clearly identify the issue and take action.

“Todd Buzza is a repeat offender,” Young Workers Centre coordinator Keelia Fitzpatrick said. “How can he be allowed to keep opening businesses and employing staff despite his long history of breaking wage laws? We need to change the rules to stop Todd Buzza and others like him from doing this again.”

“Fair Work has commenced multiple legal actions against Todd Buzza – it’s clear that he has no intention to start respecting the law and workers.”

In 2013 Consumer Affairs Victoria issued a public warning about Buzza describing him as “a former bankrupt who advertises cheap building services, using several business names”.

“Consumer Affairs Victoria has received complaints alleging Mr Buzza has taken payment for work he has not done, or for work that was incomplete and below standard,” the government body said. “In December 2012, Mr Buzza was convicted in Ringwood Magistrates’ Court of failing to disclose his bankruptcy to customers, after he was prosecuted by the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia.”

Luke Hilakari, the secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, said “It’s time for harsher penalties, including jail time, for business owners who repeatedly and consistently steal from young workers.”

Attempts to contact Todd Buzza were unsuccessful.

Feature image via Amy Fitzgerald