The Guardian 11 May, 2005

Harsh reality Bella turns pink

A restaurateur embroiled in a high profile bid to foist individual contracts onto workers says a union campaign cost her reality TV votes.

My Restaurant Rules competitor and Pink Salt manager Bella Serventi was this week forced to repay workers more than $8000 owed from the period when the restaurant was trying to force the staff onto Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) (as encouraged by the federal government).

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission also ordered the restaurateurs to pay staff award rates, issue pay slips and maintain proper employment records.

Ms Serventi told Workers Online she and her partner, Evan Hansimikali, had never meant to do the wrong thing but had been unaware of their obligations.

"We are 23 years old and have never run a business before but suddenly we are expected to be restaurant owners, chefs, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and industrial relations experts.

"There needs to be more education about what the Award is and what are the minimum standards for NSW workers. There needs to be a non-partisan point of contact and an education program."

Ms Serventi says her real fear is that the campaign would undermine public support for her restaurant and the job security of its 30 staff.

The NSW Office of Industrial Relations will this year inspect more than 11,000 NSW workplaces and the employment records of more than 100,000 employees, promised Minister John Della Bosca,

Minister Della Bosca said the Pink Salt experience proved that the federal government's proposed single industrial relations system based on AWAs would be used to slash wages and working conditions.

"This is not about improving efficiency, as the Pink Salt case demonstrates. The Commonwealth's plans are really aimed at lowering wages and conditions.

"If the federal government has its way, workers throughout the country will be subject to secretive AWAs under the federal system, with no effective way of fighting for their entitlements."

Workers Online

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