The Unfortunate Reality of Wage Theft in Australia: A Challenge to Mantle Group Hospitality

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Possible police investigation for restaurant giant

In 2023, wage theft is still an unfortunate reality for many workers across Australia. This issue has been brought to the forefront with a recent challenge by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) targeting Mantle Group Hospitality (MGH). The company, owned by millionaire pub baron Godfrey Mantle and his wife Jenny Mantle, who run iconic Queensland venues such as the Pig ‘n’ Whistle and Jimmy’s on the Mall in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall. Reports suggest that MGH has been repeatedly accused of wage theft through the use of contracts which include pay and conditions far less than those outlined in the modern Award.

Mantle Group is a family venture, 100% privately owned by the Mantle family. Founded by Godfrey and Jenny Mantle, the Mantle Group has grown to encompass a range of companies and trusts to provide premium hospitality services around Australia. Sites include Pig ‘N’ Whistle, The Charming Squire, Jimmy’s on The Mall, Jacqueline’s Ridge, Mantle & Moon Coffee, Mayfair College, Milano, Phuc Deli-Viet, The Squire’s Landing, Babylon Brisbane, Babylon Rooftop in Sydney, The Lucky Squire, The Sound Garden, The Summit Brisbane at Mt Coot-tha.

How does Wage Theft Occur?

Wage theft can occur through various methods, all of which are unethical and illegal. One common approach is miss-classification of roles to keep wages low. This could involve deliberately assigning jobs which require higher levels of skill, knowledge or responsibility to a lower paid classification than they should be entitled to. It could also involve using contracts which are hard to understand or contain bizarre clauses designed to confuse workers into accepting lower pay than they should be receiving.

Another form of wage theft is failing to make superannuation contributions or not providing employees with proper leave entitlements such as annual or public holidays. Employers may also use ‘zombie agreements’ – outdated documents that were once used by employers but have since expired – as a way to underpay employees in comparison with modern Award rates. These agreements often include below-award penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work and other entitlements such as allowances for working late and early hours.

The Impact of Wage Theft on Workers

It is clear that wage theft has a devastating impact on workers due to them not receiving their legal entitlements from their employer. This can lead to financial hardship, anxiety, stress and even depression amongst affected employees who feel powerless against their employers due to fear of losing their job if they speak out about it. Unscrupulous businesses that engage in this kind of activity have a negative effect on society at large by creating an uneven playing field where businesses are not competing fairly against one another and are instead taking advantage of vulnerable people just trying to earn an honest living.

It is heartening that organisations like FWO exist in Australia as they are fighting against unfair practices like wage theft so that all workers receive their full entitlements according to law without fear of retribution from their employer if they speak up about it. The challenge being made by FWO against MGH serves as an important reminder that businesses must act ethically when employing staff and ensure they are paying the correct wages at all times so that everyone can thrive economically regardless of their circumstances or occupation type. Business leaders must take responsibility for ensuring fair wages for all employees so we can create an economy based on fairness rather than exploitation for personal gain.

If you are a hospitality or casual worker and think you are covered by a zombie agreement the best thing to do is contact the Young Workers Hub or your Union.