July 2018 | Wage theft is paying for our fine-dining experience

Date: 10 July 2018

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

We call it ethical eating: calves raised on mother’s milk until they are weaned, and then fed on grass, not hormones, in open, red gum-shaded pastures, before a humane slaughter; chickens ranging free, their eggs not laid in cages; fish farmed in ways that are supposed to be sustainable (until they escape) or, even better, caught wild and killed using the Japanese ike-jime philosophy.

We eat the whole animal, paddock to plate, top to tail, while the non-animal produce is organic, seasonal and as local as possible.

But it looks like our ethical concerns end when the produce is delivered to the restaurant kitchen door.

An investigation by Fairfax Media has revealed that the largest high-end restaurant business in Australia, the Rockpool Dining Group, is saving millions of dollars a year by underpaying kitchen staff, while making a profit of $40 million in 2016-2017.

The investigation found that some staff were working up to 20 hours a week of unpaid overtime, meaning their overall pay was, in effect, as little as $15 an hour. That meant some weeks there were chefs – the men and women who labour to produce the group’s signature dishes – who would be up to $800 out of pocket compared to the award.