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If George Calombaris Believes In Fair Pay He Should Give Some Of His Back

George Calombaris has managed to piss me off and he is not even bouncing on our TV screens in Masterchef Australia.

Yesterday George Calombaris took aim at Julia Gillard’s Fair Work Laws saying that paying penalty rates were crippling his business.

In an interview with the Power Index he moaned:

“The problem is that wages on public holidays and weekends greatly exceed the opportunity for profit…It’s just not a good business practice to be paying penalty rates. It’s really difficult to stay open and we only do it because of tourism but the reality is it’s uneconomical.”

“So our labour laws are something that need to be looked at and we keep talking about it.”

Morale must have been pretty low in George’s many restaurants last night, knowing that he did not think he should have to pay higher rates on the days of the week that people traditionally spend with family and friends.

Also I suspect George may have conveniently forgotten that he was probably paid penalty rates when he was younger and working as an employee.

He would probably prefer the US model where the customer subsidises the wage cost, with a minimum wage of $2.00 an hour and the diner is expected to tip 20 per cent of the bill to make up the wage short fall.

In the article George mentions his outgoings, one of which is a $45,000 pasta machine. A machine he has bought to decrease the labour required in the kitchen, something I don’t have a problem with, however, whining about paying minimum award wages for the staff you do have is a bit off, particularly when you own multiple business.

Let’s get this straight he is not some struggling small business owner.

George should also know that if the service is no good in his high end restaurants then the customer won’t come back no matter how good the food is. These people are essential in ensuring George can buy his imported cars, or just ensure that his partner does not have to work and look after their child full time.  A luxury a lot of families don’t have these days.

Seriously George appears to follow the Gerry Harvey business model where laws and policies should be there to ensure more money can be made on the millions they already have.

News flash George – These laws are in place to ensure unscrupulous employers have wages and conditions in place for people who due to education or life circumstances are unable to negotiate for themselves. For example like new immigrants who George’s parents once were.

Also if you are so fixated about fair wages what about giving some of yours back for the dud ratings Junior Masterchef produced in 2011, a show he was host and judge on.

UPDATE: The debate continues on this blog here with this guy writing an interesting article.

An issue I have been thinking about since seeing this tweet from Gary Mehigan who tweets @crispycrackling “George takes hammering over penalty rates, but the big question “is the weekend still family day? Half day closing Saturday & closed Sunday?”

By the way I think Gary looks pretty good in his twitter avatar maybe he lost some weight in the Masterchef off season.

Now I really need to move onto another story as this is not trashy reality blog not a political one, however the question must be asked is whether Sunday is now family day for the middle class, and if you are poor, a new migrant or a student it should just be considered another work day.


1 Injera { 01.10.12 at 9:25 am }

Yep, and those comments were made as he prepares to open his new restaurant, not start up a business, but add a third (or is it fourth? ot fifth?) to his group. Gerry Harvey analogy seems apt.

2 TMC { 01.10.12 at 9:28 am }

Good on ya RR

3 Miss Piggy { 01.10.12 at 9:28 am }

Well said! Those laws are there to protect the little people from Big Business.

4 Culinary Boner { 01.10.12 at 9:49 am }

George’s Napoleon complex is showing.

If he’s serious about his labour cost productivity perhaps he can start with all the suck-up middle management he no doubt has in his Empire.

BTW, here’s another 2nd-gen migrant ‘giving it’ to the great “unwashed” out there –

5 Culinary Boner { 01.10.12 at 9:53 am }

Caption for George’s photo above:

“get workin’ youse bludgers, or yous’ll feel the business end of this where da sun don’t shine”

6 librarygirl { 01.10.12 at 10:10 am }

Greedy, greedy, greedy
He has definitely got a case of the Gerry Harveys!
He will have blown it big time with a lot of people with this silly
interview. Waiting for the big back-pedal.

7 Reality Raver { 01.10.12 at 10:25 am }

It would be great if the LHMEU went to all his restaurants today to try and sign up his employees or at least do a media stunt outside them.

8 Leop { 01.10.12 at 10:35 am }

A case of ‘overnight stardom’ gone to head and pocket – oh poor Georgie Porgie why even talk to the media and moan? But, RR, well said

9 CBD { 01.10.12 at 11:16 am }

Sorry RR – I usually agree with you on most things, but I’m kind of with George on this one. As a small business owner our IR laws (under Gillard) are crippling small business as well at an attitudinal shift with the current gen Y climate and general Australian work ethic (of SOME workers). In fact, I have now resorted to sponsoring people from overseas for my business because 1) they actually want to work 2) are greatful for the opportunity 3) don’t give me a hard time (calling 6:00 am in the morning “sick” after a long weekend), and 4) actually value customer service – something that us Aussies could certainly do better in. Maybe if we went for the $2 per hour model + tips, people would actually care about delivering great service as their remuneration is tied to service quality, not an “entitlement…” Just my 2 cents.

10 Shelsta78 { 01.10.12 at 11:39 am }

He clearly doesn’t have a media manager. Also, given how many employees he has; he actually has the ability to negotiate conditions across all his businesses so he wouldn’t have to pay penalty rates – but that would also involve spending money on hiring a professional (HR Or Lawyer) to ensure that it was done the right way – something which I’m sure he hasn’t considered because it’s far easier to just blame the Government than do something about it yourself. Also – penalty rates existed under Howard and it wasn’t easier to get rid of them as part of Work Choices it was practically the SAME process.
All in All – stick to cooking and / or touching crying women inappropriately on national television GC and not talking about IR.

11 Culinary Boner { 01.10.12 at 12:03 pm }

Well put Shelsta78. Shorten kindly gave him similar advice via the media yesterday – he can negotiate directly with his workforce on conditions. Moaning is much more fun though. Almost as much fun as having a root, shopping, having a beer or eating chocolate. It’s all to do with the endorphins, I understand.

12 PollyB { 01.10.12 at 12:04 pm }

Employees, just as employers, earn money to better their position in life. Why is the person performing the labour less entitled to ‘make a profit’ than the business owner? I’m sure that is why Fatties parents migrated to Oz. Hypocrite.

13 dmc { 01.10.12 at 12:05 pm }

From my memory, penalty rates have been reduced over the years.
I do agree, however, that foreigners are often ‘better’ workers than home-grown ones.

14 Reality Raver { 01.10.12 at 12:21 pm }

CBD – Thanks for commenting, I was worried because of my strong views on this issue that no one would feel comfortable putting up an opposing view.

By the way CB I just got queue jumped by a white person…

15 Paul { 01.10.12 at 12:29 pm }

Just like the IT industry I can see the hospitality market shifting towards contractors on long term fixed deals.

Penalty rates were invented for those people who work hours outside what is considered normal for their occupation.

Unfortunately its incredibly difficult to do this on a per occupation basis so the unions have gone for the one size fits all approach.

16 CBD { 01.10.12 at 12:51 pm }

@shelsta – I’ve actually got off my butt and engaged IR lawyers to help me keep up with the constant changes in IR law. I was advised that the only way I could avoid the penalty rate dilemma is to consistantly pay people well above the minimum wage/award (which I do already as if I didn’t I wouldnt be able to attract people in the first place ); and then argue that the hours they have spent working above award makes up for the times they work on Public Holidays…RIGHT…try enforcing that one on a “work-life balance” gen y. Hence why I now make the “foreign” investment.

But off course this just makes me a “moaning” small business owner who blames the government. I’ll just keep paying the $450 per hour for the IR lawyer and then look for ways to “scrounge” on employee wages to pay for the legal bill.

Makes me laugh really…last time I checked without employers we don’t have…guess what!….jobs!

Now where did I put that $45,000 pasta machine?

17 CBD { 01.10.12 at 12:52 pm }

@Paul – seen the “sham contracting” rules that “the (whoops) government” are now enforcing heavily? Would love to see hospitality workers actually pass the contractor test.

18 Culinary Boner { 01.10.12 at 2:37 pm }

Just as Gerry Harvey managed, at this very same time last year, to destroy any hope that the bricks-and-mortar retail industry had of getting the GST threshold for direct retail imports shifted downwards, so an apparently sleep and sex deprived Georgie Porgie, has decided to mimic Gerry’s hamfisted media exercise. Bravo George!

CBD, you and other small business owners shouldn’t get too excited about the prospect of a change of government with DLP Tony in charge.

Seems to me you are raising two issues –
1) the cost of labour on days that had been traditionally been considered days of rest and worship (church or footy), but are now still considered days of rest, leisure or for spending time with family and friends (perhaps even at one of George’s fine eating establishments) and therefore for which those made to work on these days get extra compensation;
2) dud, unmotivated staff who can’t be arsed doing their job properly.

The two aren’t necessarily linked. Attack the 1st issue in a hamfisted way and its WorkChoices all over again. While culturally we still have the concept of Saturday and Sunday as days off for most employees (rather than giving us all the option of a 5 day week – you choose when you want to be off) then, in all fairness, penalty rates still need to be in most awards.

The 2nd issue may be more intractable, particularly in an economy like ours which still has reasonable labour demand with much lower unemployment than the 10percent typical in the US etc… Guess you’ve gone the “foreign” option as you call it to get over this problem.

19 Georgie { 01.10.12 at 2:48 pm }

So, I wonder where the ‘Public Holiday Surcharge’ dollars go, that I’ve been charged in the past, to help cover these extra costs? Just asking.

20 Georgie { 01.10.12 at 3:40 pm }

I also wonder what George is planning to do with that rolling pin – he looks pretty menacing!

21 ExEssex { 01.10.12 at 3:44 pm }

Fab post RR

22 Shelsta78 { 01.10.12 at 4:04 pm }

As a small business employee and someone who works in an IR related field you will get no argument from me – the only people that did well out of both Work Choices and Fair Work Australia are IR lawyers.
My point was simply that for a medium sized business like George’s (multiple locations & more employees than average SB owner) he could if he wanted to negotiate with his staff to negate the payment of penalty rates – under both the current and former IR systems.
Whilst I am sure that you do everything you can to do right by your employees and have arrived at an outcome that works well for you – the almost daily complaints I see from employees (mostly teenagers and a bit older) who have been rorted by SB owners confirm that we are better to have these protections than not.

23 brain dead dave { 01.10.12 at 4:11 pm }

You can always go back to Greece, George. Things are going great there, I hear.

24 Reality Raver { 01.10.12 at 4:49 pm }

BDD – He might find it tougher over there isn’t Greece a basket case because of all the rights their workers have over there?

25 bella vita { 01.11.12 at 3:12 am }

I am also a business owner and some of the admin jobs I get done OS for a couple of reasons…they get done quicky, no laziness and the price is way cheaper than if I was to pay someone here.
My staff get paid extremely well for what they do and I believe I am a fair boss and noone ever leaves which is obviously a good thing.
Gillard is killing small business and it will take many years to rectify the mess she has caused.

26 Reality Raver { 01.11.12 at 8:24 am }
27 Georgie { 01.11.12 at 10:40 am }

As a seasoned consumer and traveller, I can say categorically that the primary element in any small business that determines my return, is customer service. Experience has shown me that good customer service is inextricably linked to staff morale.

Australia is the best country on the planet to live and there’s a reason for this – so work it out from there.

28 Reality Raver { 01.11.12 at 11:15 am }

Georgie – interestingly our robust labor laws and set minimum wage as not stopped making our economy one of the strongest in the world.

29 Shelsta78 { 01.11.12 at 1:47 pm }

Thanks for the link to that article RR – great analysis.

30 Culinary Boner { 01.11.12 at 2:04 pm }

That link was good in that it’s the only article I’ve seen so far that actually lists the numbers for the award. Made me notice again this ‘clincher’ of an assertion by George…

“I can eat at Fat Duck cheaper than I can at some fine dining restaurants in Australia…”

Wouldn’t be eating there for free by any chance George?

Oh, and please say hi to Heston for me, when our next hobnobbing with him.

31 Culinary Boner { 01.11.12 at 2:27 pm }

Hey George! Here, catch this mate! *tosses the smooth pated Greek-Aussie the Can of Worms he’d just opened*…

A question, mate. Firstly, I’m one of those restaurant customers who don’t mind paying full price when the advertised lauded chef is in the kitchen cooking. But is it reasonable to charge me the full price when the chef whose food I’m gagging to eat is having a day off to, say, go to the footy, get pissed with his/her mates or treat their family to a night out? C’mon George. Expecting us mug gourmets to pay top dollar for the efforts of a culinary nobody is like Beijing stall dealer expecting me to pay $500 for his state-of-the-art wooden Ipad. You know it aint right. So why not fix it?

32 brain dead dave { 01.11.12 at 3:48 pm }

George’s philosophy of food is to cook with love ….of money.

33 Reality Raver { 01.11.12 at 4:04 pm }

BDD – LOL I think you are spot on.

34 MattC { 01.11.12 at 4:56 pm }

Small business owners must be the biggest whingers going around. Every single one of them drives around in a brand new car owned by the business, using petrol paid for by the business, goes on overseas holidays paid for by the business then claim the thing back on company tax. Which is fine if they can get away with it. But they moan incessantly about paying the people who actually do the work a decent wage. If you are going to rort the tax system, then stop whining.

35 Culinary Boner { 01.11.12 at 9:15 pm }

Agree MattC.
It used be be asset-rich farmers who’d be most capable of representing Australia in the whingeing Olympics. And said farmers could also go pretty close to Gold for hypocrisy with their tactic of ‘running away from the market’ as soon as it became clear their were losses to be had. Which they were always only to please to ‘socialise’ so all Aussies could share their pain, but none of their gain. To be fair across the political spectrum, the manufacturing unions are now the new NFF/Country Party in terms of pulling this stunt. (I’m looking at you Paul Howes.) Always seeking bailouts for local businesses or industries that are not going to cut it in the global economy we are all now a part of. Small business owners complete this trifecta with their entirely understandable desire/delusion, at the individual level, that no matter how dumb or out-of-tune their business concept, how bad their management or how much competition they have, their ‘hard work’ and risk taking just has to be rewarded. And if it isn’t, then someone’s to blame – the banks, the government, the unions, the supermarket duopoly, the ‘effing Chinese, me bludging overpaid workers. Sorry folks. But in a properly functioning economy some of you will just not cut it. That’s the reality.

36 PollyB { 01.12.12 at 11:51 am }

CB, comment 35, so on the money – ‘Small business owners complete…..overpaid workers’ – Are you eaves dropping at my workplace? This is the born to rule, trust fund baby, running the business at a break even to offset his millions in other places, boss that I have! And the car, expenses and holidays as per MattC’s comment. Life’s a bitch for ’em.

37 ruby { 01.12.12 at 2:02 pm }

what a whinger George. Doing it so hard, aren’t you ?? Next you will be demanding that 4 year olds become chimney sweeps again. If the penalty rates are killing you so much, don’t open on weekends or public holidays. Simple. Your star struck customers can then have a ‘family day’ on Sunday again. Better a roast cooked at home than an expensive meal prepared by someone impersonating the star chef whilst he has his ‘family day’ playing golf no doubt.

38 brain dead dave { 01.12.12 at 3:41 pm }

George has got a new signature dish…….Golden Calf.

39 Celebrity Apprentice Australia – The Celebrity Art Auction And A Snog With The Hoff | reality ravings { 01.24.12 at 5:20 pm }

[…] have issues then just you wait for the Gen Z’s to hit the workforce they are prima donnas. Going by the George Calombaris school of industrial relations I paid them with an ice cream and they still were not […]

40 Gee George Calombaris The Penalty Rates Surely Can’t Be That Bad? | reality ravings { 01.31.12 at 2:39 pm }

[…]  Has George Calombaris ditched the Masterchef Australia set to really protest about the industrial relations laws in Australia? Surely they are not THAT […]

41 BigSteve { 02.16.12 at 11:38 am }

The fact is that both George and Gary are sellouts and greedy…I know that with hard work comes the rewards….but a chef who sells out to a Kitchen ware company, kitchen products or car company…..then cries poor mouth after having a TV show contract, magazine rights, multiple businesses, product placement deals, endorsements and the list can go on…but cries about the penalty rates..Next thing you know George will be on the docks of Christmas Island handing out job application forms trying to hire illegal immigrants for $5 p/h….Thats the new problem now..trying keep “real” Australians in jobs..!! BTW Im a TQ Chef and have worked in the industry for 18yrs and have my own Cafe and know its hard to pay the bills somedays.