Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar in Kingston accused of 'cash-only' sacking

A second Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar in Canberra has allegedly underpaid its staff, with a driver claiming he was dismissed after asking to be paid his award entitlement.

The claim of ongoing cash payments from the Kingston store, which has left drivers about $9 an hour out of pocket pre-tax, has again led a union to call for a head office review of all franchisees and contract arrangements.

Simon Cole has claimed he was underpaid nearly $9 an hour by the Kingston Crust franchise.
Simon Cole has claimed he was underpaid nearly $9 an hour by the Kingston Crust franchise. Photo: Matthew Raggatt

Mr Cole, 34, lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission this month seeking compensation for the underpayments – which would be worth thousands of dollars pre-tax – and wrongful dismissal.

The student said he worked an average 20 to 25 hours a week, or four to five shifts, since November under new franchisee company SAI Hospitality, but said even the signing of a contract on January 16 that referred to the relevant award did not end the "off the books" base cash payments of $15 an hour.

Mr Cole said when he pushed for a change again soon after Australia Day the store manager refused him, and, for the first time, gave him no shifts the following week.

"He said, 'I can't afford you with the tax'," Mr Cole said.

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"He said, 'It would be hard to let you go, have a think about it, but that's why a lot of other people had to go'."

Mr Cole said the manager told him he did not want to spend much because he was not making money.

"He said, 'other drivers say they're happy to get the cash'."

Mr Cole said he was later offered and worked two more shifts, then removed from the roster. With a per delivery addition he said he received about $20 an hour, but under the award, which also mandates a per delivery payment, he should have received about $29 an hour gross.

United Voice ACT senior legal officer Stefan Russell Uren said there were concerning similarities with the situation in the Crust Gungahlin store last year.

It led to reported commitments from the store management to provide back pay for underpayments, follow award rates and make payments through bank accounts rather than in cash.

"I'm not surprised there are similar issues in Kingston with delivery drivers as there were under Gungahlin, under different owners and different times," he said.

"It would also surprise me if this stopped at the ACT border."

UnionsACT secretary Alex White called on Crust's head office to independently audit every store in its chain last September,

A spokeswoman for Retail Food Group, which owns the Crust franchise system and intellectual property, said it had no knowledge of Mr Cole's situation until alerted by The Sunday Canberra Times.

"Whilst employment arrangements with team members are ultimately the responsibility of franchisees, as soon as Crust was made aware of this matter, a full investigation was initiated," she said.

"All Crust franchisees have clear obligations, under both the law and their franchise agreement, to comply with relevant employment legislation and awards. Crust considers any instance of non-compliance with these obligations to be wholly unacceptable."

The spokeswoman said the allegations in relation to the Gungahlin store were "immediately investigated and resolved".

"As a consequence of that matter, Crust launched a nationwide communications and education program to remind franchisees of their obligations as an employer [and] commenced a review of employment practices within its national network, and continues to regularly review its franchisees and their compliance," she said.

A conciliation conference would be held in Mr Cole's matter on March 29.

There was no comment from SAI Hospitality this week.