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Burger Buzz boss Todd Buzza faces jail threat over underpayment

A burger bar operator who has repeatedly underpaid workers is now facing the prospect of jail time if he keeps ripping off his employees.
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Burger Buzz boss Todd Buzza faces jail threat over underpayment

Burger Buzz boss Todd Buzza faces jail threat over underpayment

19 January 2017

This article was originally featured on The Sydney Morning Herald

A burger bar operator who has repeatedly underpaid workers is now facing the prospect of jail time if he keeps ripping off his employees.

For the second time in a year, Todd Buzza and his company Rum Runner Trading face allegations of underpaying employees at outlets of his Burger Buzz chain. 

In the latest case, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Mr Buzza underpaid five employees a total of $7513 between December 2015 and July 2016.

Mr Buzza's alleged violations include paying below the minimum wage, denying full penalty rates, failing to provide mandated breaks and not paying wages on a fortnightly basis.

In an unusual move, the Ombudsman is requesting the court grant an injunction against Mr Buzza and his company. If approved, Mr Buzza would be legally bound to pay employees to the legal standard or face contempt of court.

Failure to comply with an injunction warrants a contempt of court charge, which can result in fines and imprisonment.

The watchdog has already prosecuted Mr Buzza once before, last July, on behalf of another seven Burger Buzz employees who were owed a further $7113 in unpaid wages. Fairfax Media understands Mr Buzza has not yet paid that money.

Following fresh complaints from workers the Ombudsman demanded Mr Buzza produce more records. The watchdog claims the records produced were "knowingly false or misleading", which is an offence, and forms part of this fresh prosecution.

The watchdog claims that the record does not list 14 employees who recorded shifts in the company attendance book. They also claim that the rate of remuneration for employees in the latest case is inaccurately recorded.

Court documents allege one employee received no payment for her month of employment, including over 33 hours of weekend work. The employee is seeking $1422.25 in unpaid wages.

Mr Buzza also allegedly told the same employee that he paid an hourly rate to $17 to new staff and $20 for experienced team members who took on additional duties.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Mr Buzza's employees are entitled to a minimum hourly rate of $18.47 under the award plus penalty rates.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said inspectors had formally notified Mr Buzza of minimum pay obligations at least twice in 2014.

"We are concerned that the allegations made by a series of workers suggest a pattern of non-compliant behaviour and a business model based on the exploitation of vulnerable workers," Mr Campbell said.

"We treat underpayment of young and overseas workers particularly seriously because they can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their entitlements or reluctant to complain."

In December 2013, Consumer Affairs Victoria issued a public warning about Mr Buzza's deceptive conduct stemming from a conviction in the Ringwood Magistrates Court. The court found Mr Buzza guilty for failing to disclose bankruptcy to customers of his building services companies.

Mr Buzza was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline.

If you’re unsure if you should be paying staff a certain rate ask a workplace expert by calling the Free Workplace Advice Line for employers on 1300 496 955.

 

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