A Melbourne cafe owner who claimed he couldn’t find staff as people were only applying to advertised jobs for “Centrelink purposes” has been hit by a number of claims from former employees that he was “verbally abusive” and a “nightmare” to work with.
Adrian Rigotto, who runs Match & Co in Dingley, appeared on Today Extra earlier this month and claimed a $5000 hiring bonus wasn’t enough to find workers for his business.
Mr Rigotto said he had received 50 job applications for a vacancy but all the people that applied had done so to fulfil Centrelink requirements.
But former employees have hit back, alleging Mr Rigotto churns through staff because the workplace is “toxic”.
Several have alleged they were paid incorrect wages and breaks were denied when working long shifts.
Mr Rigotto denied these claims and did not wish to comment in detail.
Mason Miller was employed by Match & Co for 10 months as a casual but quit in early 2020. He told news.com.au he felt “completely anxious” every time he worked.
He alleged that Mr Rigotto yelled at staff in front of customers for minor mistakes like messing up orders, spilling coffees or not taking food out quickly enough.
“He was just extremely abusive, he would use very intimidating and harsh language and would embarrass staff in front of customers,” Mr Miller alleged.
“He would criticise waiters for the smallest of mistakes but publicly … If you did one thing wrong that was even a hint of losing profit he would lose it at you …
“Like I’m talking bringing staff to tears, there were plenty of staff on the borderline of crying because of the way he spoke to them and sometimes they did cry.”
The 21-year-old claims that more than 30 people quit in the first six months he worked at the cafe.
He had worked in hospitality for more than two years before joining the cafe and had never experienced a situation like it.
He claims he never received pay slips while at Match & Co, and was paid cash in hand at $20 an hour. He also never received superannuation payments, he alleged.
Mr Miller added that he felt he was treated like a slave.
“There was no award rates, there was no penalties — nothing,” he said. “Quite frequently I was asked to work shifts on weekend from 9am to 5pm without a break, sometimes longer shifts than that.”
Another Match & Co worker who resigned from the cafe this month backed up Mr Miller’s claims regarding payments. The worker, who asked not to be named, told news.com.au that she was paid in cash and never received any pay slips or superannuation contributions.
The worker alleged she often worked nine hour shifts without a break.
Mr Rigotto told news.com.au that the claims were “unwarranted” and “untrue” and he had nothing further to add.
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Another former staff member, who quit the cafe earlier this year after only a few months, said it took three weeks for her to receive pay slips after repeatedly asking for them when she first started.
Kate Jones* described working for Mr Rigotto as a “nightmare” and “toxic”. She was pulling six to seven shifts a week working as long as 10 to 12 hours.
“You just never got a break. You weren’t allowed to have a sip of water in front of customers. The last time I took a sip of water he yelled at me — it wasn’t a nice situation — he was so aggressive about a sip of water,” she alleged.
“If we had an accident and dropped glassware he would threaten us and he said it would definitely come out of our pay.”
Verbal abuse was also regularly dished out to staff, according to Ms Jones, including one time when he called them “f***ing idiots” and “f**king morons” because they were low on change in the till. She has memories of staff regularly crying as a result of his behaviour.
“Usually if we would make a mistake, he would call us idiots and every name under the sun and in front of customers until we would be crying and he would send you away and say ‘Go and fix yourself up’ and not even ‘Are you OK and how you feeling now?’
“He would just go on for hours, yelling at us and it’s unbelievable, the way he would abuse and speak to his staff.”
Finally, the 25-year-old couldn’t take the working environment anymore after spending the whole time “absolutely terrified” of Mr Rigotto.
“He was not a nice person to work with. After being called a “f***ing idiot to my face about 10 times in two minutes and with him standing way too close, I couldn’t take it there anymore.”
Karma Lord, Hospo Voice Director at United Workers Union, said just weeks ago this employer complained about not being able to find workers for his venue in a television interview.
“If he isn’t paying his workers the correct award and penalty rates, then the reason for this becomes clear. Hospo workers are sick of having their wages stolen and they won’t put up with it anymore,” Ms Lord said.
“Workers performing front of house waitering duties should be paid $21.19 if they’re employed on a permanent basis and accruing annual and sick leave. $26.49 an hour if they’re casual employees.
“No matter how they’re employed, hospitality workers should receive penalty rates on weekends, for late nights and on public holidays.”
Workers covered by the Restaurant Industry Award should receive breaks during shifts longer than six hours, added Ms Lord.
“We urge hospo workers to join our union to collectivise, learn about their rights and get any stolen wages back,” she said.
For Mr Miller, he was outraged by Mr Rigotto’s claims about jobseekers that he made on Today Extra.
“I know heaps of people out there looking for jobs,” he said.
“In my new job after the first lockdown there were over 200 people who applied for it within two hours, so that’s more than one person a minute. There are plenty of people looking for front of house jobs.”
Ms Jones added that it was “ridiculous” Mr Rigotto had gone on the news to claim he couldn’t find any decent workers.
“People who have worked there have so much experience and there are some fresh out of high school and the reason why people don’t last long and there is so much staff turnover is because of him,” she alleged. “It’s almost comical he has gone out in public and is saying all these things.”
*Names have been changed