WORKERS WALK: 9 staff claim cafe owes thousands in wages
NINE employees have walked out on their boss and forgone their jobs at a Bundaberg cafe after accumulating thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
The eight women and one man - all former employees at Coffee Please Mate, approached the NewsMail last month after each of them up-and-left the business.
The group, most of whom are aged under 18, are seeking legal advice on whether they should pursue the cafe for the money they claim they are owed.
Despite working there for only a month, 18-year-old Rebecca Clements said she saw her first dollar only after she quit.
"I didn't get everything I was owed (about $600). Maybe half of it," Miss Clements said.
The teen claimed the cafe altered her timesheets to make it appear she had worked longer hours than she actually did, before sending them through to employment agency IMPACT.
"Because I was on a scheme through IMPACT, I was supposed to work 20 hours a week for the cafe to get the funding from them, but sometimes I'd do 11 hours or 15 hours and the cafe would attach a different payslip to the end of my timesheet with 20 hours on it and send it to them," Miss Clements told the NewsMail.
In a similar situation, former manager Jodie Stuart said she got paid $200 a week if she was lucky.
"I had to demand pay slips every month to take them to IMPACT," Ms Stuart said.
The single mother's $4215.36 in unpaid wages is the largest claim from the group.
"I have told him '(owner) John (Harvey) I am going to court, I am seeking legal action'," Ms Stuart said.
"We all quit because of this problem."
Despite being contacted on two occasions, Mr Harvey did not wish to comment and only referred the NewsMail to Section 14.2 of the Fast Food Act.
The section states that the notice of termination required to be given by an employee is the same as that required of an employer.
"If an employee fails to give the required notice the employer may withhold from any monies due to the employee on termination under this award or the National Employment Standard...," the section states.
Claiming she is owed more than $1126.24, 17-year-old Jasmine Airey said she often did not get paid for up to five weeks at a time.
"I called him (Mr Harvey) at one point and he put $160 in my account, and I said 'Well that's not even a week's worth of pay, that's not going to pay my bills'," she said.
Miss Airey, who informally took over as manager after Ms Stuart quit, said in her time at the coffee shop there was "no such thing as weekend rates or breaks".
"I used to do eight hours each day, so I'd put myself on a break, even though it wasn't really a break as I'd still be serving customers, and John would still deduct it from my pay."
Miss Airey's father, Matthew Airey, said the situation was frustrating and concerning.
"It just got to the point where I said to Jasmine 'enough is enough, you can't keep turning up and not be paid'," he told the NewsMail.
Short about $700 before quitting her job, 17-year-old Ashley Beja said she never saw a payslip in her short time at Coffee Please Mate.
"If I was paid, it was cash in hand," Ms Beja told the NewsMail.
"I was at the bank to pay a bill for my phone this one time, and I said to John that I needed him to put the money he owed me into my account.
"I told him 'You said you'd pay it by 12pm, it's now 4.30pm, the bill's already three days overdue'.
"And he asked 'what's the bill about?'
"When I told him it was none of his business he just started having a go at me and said I would get the money when I got the money.
"I said 'John I've been quiet for four weeks now about this pay and now that I really need the money."
The group has contacted Fair Work and is going through initial processes with Legal Aid.