George Calombaris has lost a major endorsement deal after news broke last week that his restaurant business had underpaid staff by $7.8 million.
The embattled Masterchef judge may still have Network 10’s support, but not that of WA Tourism, which today ditched Calombaris as the face of its latest food and wine advertisement campaign.
It comes less than two business days after Calombaris was forced to make a $200,000 “contrition payment”, in addition to back-paying 515 workers who were underpaid a total $7.83 million while employed by his restaurant empire.
While Calombaris has apologised and characterised the massive underpayments as an error, calls have been growing for Masterchef and Network 10 to dump the Melbourne restaurateur.
In a statement, Network 10 said it stood by Calombaris.
However, WA Tourism has already begun taking down all social media and television advertisements featuring Calombaris. The advertisements promoted Western Australia as a place to “design your own gourmet escape”.
The campaign, which began earlier this month, was scheduled to air until the end of September.
“George Calombaris was a small part of a Tourism WA campaign encouraging people to visit the areas of the State that featured in the recent WA Week on Masterchef Australia,” a Tourism WA spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
“Given the recent community response due to Mr Calombaris’ issues with the Fair Work Commission we have paused the parts of the campaign that have featured him and we’re speaking with his management.
“This campaign is just part of what we’re doing to promote the state,” the spokesperson added.
Network 10, Masterchef stick with George Calombaris while unions rage
“George and Made Establishment have reached an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to this matter. George has the support of Network Ten. We will not be making any further comment,” a Network 10 spokesperson said.
However, Australia’s unions and former staff have called on Network 10 to dump the chef.
Australian Unions described the $200,000 fine as “woefully inadequate” and called for greater penalties against “dodgy bosses”.
George Calombaris’s restaurants systematically stole almost $8 million from staff.
A $200K fine is a woefully inadequate joke of a punishment.
Widespread wage theft will simply continue if dodgy bosses don’t fear the consequences of their actions.
— Australian Unions (@unionsaustralia) July 17, 2019
Former employees have also launched a petition for Calombaris to “face elimination”.
Former Hellenic Republic waiter, Orlaith Belfrage instigated the petition, claiming she was underpaid $2,000 in wages.
“Wage theft is a business model and George Calombaris has built his career on it,” Belfrage said.
“And he continues to be heralded as the “nice guy” celebrity chef and a MasterChef judge.
“He should be taken off MasterChef. Channel Ten should stop making excuses for this serial wage thief.”
Neil Perry rocked by underpayment allegations
Fellow celebrity chef and Rockpool Bar & Grill Boss, Neil Perry is also set to face the Federal Court after a former chef announced he would sue the chef for forcing him to work excessive overtime without pay.
“This is another Dickensian example of wage theft and exploitation of vulnerable workers that is all too common in the hospitality industry,” Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein said.
“Rockpool is no bit player. It’s a highly profitable business empire which has been cheating.”
Bornstein recognised that the chef was on a temporary visa at the time, adding: “The abuse of working visa schemes is harming the labour market and the broader economy.”
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