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Crust Pizza's healthy image under attack

Major pizza franchise Crust prides itself on gourmet toppings but the back-office operations in a Canberra store have again been accused of skimping on wages.

This time it is at the Kingston outlet.

Five months ago staff at the Gungahlin Crust Pizza store won backpay after complaints about their working conditions were aired by Fairfax Media

But the company's apparent problem of underpayment is not isolated to the national capital.  

Last year a former owner-operator of the Crust Gourmet Pizza outlet at Maroubra was fined $3825 for refusing to reimburse eight employees who were underpaid almost $26,000 in 2013.

The pizza brand's image is under attack and the enemy appears to be within. 

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While the allegation of underpayment at the Kingston store is not yet proven, the confirmed cases of underpayment elsewhere demonstrate a willingness to serve the customer at the same time as ignoring the rights of workers. 

People who have complained about underpayment so far not surprisingly come from the lower socioeconomic part of the tier of the workforce - young people who are studying.

One former driver at the Gungahlin store, Priya De, said she believed the majority of drivers hired by the franchise were international students, who are limited to 20 hours a week work but rarely complained about being underpaid for extra hours, as the extra shifts breach their visas.

After news of the drama at the Gungahlin store was raised, her complaint was met with apologies from Crust and back-pay but the latest allegations at Kingston show the problem may be embedded more deeply within the culture of the organisation.

The United Voice union has called for a head office review into the matter, repeating the calls by UnionsACT last September.

This should be a matter of high priority for Crust's head office. It says it launched a nationwide education program after the Gungahlin problem, and regularly reviews franchisees and their compliance.

If so, the Kingston management may have slipped through, but these new allegations are of ongoing and deliberate cash underpayments. 

Pizza outlets and other similar stores rely on young workers to keep costs down in a competitive market.

But it comes with a temptation to exploit young people who have fewer options to work elsewhere.

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