4 October 2019

A group of wealthy restaurateurs used an article in The Age yesterday to whinge about the supposed complexity of wage laws, with one — Chris Lucas — calling for an amnesty “to allow employers to make adjustments without fear of being publicly attacked or fined”. The uncritical article did not point out that the Lucas Group is under investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman over an alleged failure to pay overtime — not a question of complexity, just a business decision to use annualised salaries and then fail to conduct an annual reconciliation. Today, The Age’s Ben Schneiders had to provide the missing balance while also revealing a leaked audit by Chris Lucas’s accountant that showed a total wage discrepancy of $340,000 in one year: “Some staff had been paid $10,000 per year less than they should have received as compared to the minimum rates of the award.” (The company claims all workers have been fully paid; the workers disagree.) So why did yesterday’s article read more like a PR piece? Perhaps because its author, Dani Valent, also runs a food business that depends on her connections with high profile chefs. She has upcoming events at Vue de Monde and Mahaboth of which are under investigation for alleged annualised salary rip-offs. What a cosy little club.