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Migrant workers allegedly underpaid $600,000 by Melbourne pizza manufacturer

Source: SBS Punjabi

A Melbourne-based high profile pizza manufacturing company has been accused of alleged underpayments, bullying and harassment. A group of 17 former workers is now planning to lodge a legal claim against Della Rosa.

Della Rosa is a manufacturing company which supplies pizzas to Coles, Woolworths and IGA, as well as some smaller clients.

At least 17 former workers have alleged that Della Rosa paid them a flat rate, and denied overtime payments, shift loading, and public holiday rates.

Rosters, pay slips and legal documents provided to SBS Punjabi suggest these workers to be involved in 12-hour shifts, with at least six of them telling SBS they regularly worked overtime, weekend shifts and public holidays but were only paid normal wages.

The workers also allege that there were instances when they were made to work non-stop in a cold environment to keep the production line running. They also say they were denied regular breaks.

Della Rosa is believed to employ over 400 workers in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield, with a large proportion of the employees being young migrants from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.

SBS Punjabi has recorded interviews of at least six workers, originally from India, who claim that they were significantly underpaid during their tenure at Della Rosa.

The underpayments allegedly range from $7,000 to as much as $75,000.

They’ve also levelled allegations of harassment, poor and exhaustive working conditions. 

Migrant workers affected by Della Rosa underpayments.
SBS Punjabi interviewed a group of Indian workers who used to work at the Della Rosa factory.
SBS Punjabi

Vikram Singh worked at Della Rosa for approximately three years from 2014 to 2017, beginning as a routine production worker and later promoted to the position of the shift supervisor.

He alleges that he was underpaid to the tune of $75,330.58, and told SBS Punjabi that he struggled to cope with the company’s wrongdoings, work culture and aggression towards the workers.  

“This was my first job after I migrated to Australia. I was afraid of losing this job,” he said.

“During my early days with Della Rosa, I did not raise any issue that I was only paid a flat rate without any shift allowances.” 

Della Rosa
Vikram Singh claims over $75,000 in alleged underpayments.
Supplied

Mr Singh said that like many other new migrants, he was not aware of his legal entitlements.

“In or around 2015, while working at Braeside, I heard that five European workers at the Campbellfield site had contacted the National Union of Workers about underpayment of wages,” he adds.

“But we were bullied by our seniors to not speak to anyone regarding poor working conditions and systematic underpayment. We were threatened that we would be out of work if we didn’t toe the line.” 

Mr Singh alleges that the company has an established climate of fear and aggression towards its workers.

“In my experience, the company has allowed a culture of bullying and intimidation by senior management against its workers, who are all migrants, and do not know their workplace rights in Australia,” he said.

In 2017, Mr Singh 2, Ms Kaur 1, 2, 3 and 4 and five other workers of Della Rosa first tried to commence proceedings regarding their underpayment claims by contacting a Melbourne-based legal firm.

Ms Kaur 1, who has an alleged underpayment claim of over $30,000, told SBS Punjabi that despite having most of the paperwork, the matter couldn’t go ahead.

“Our lawyer sent the calculations to Della Rosa but the claim couldn’t be filed in court because the firm had asked for more money and we couldn’t commit due to our poor financial conditions”, she said. 

Della Rosa
NUW Organiser Pareen Minhas (R) with a group of Indian Australian women who used to work at Della Rosa.
Supplied

SBS Punjabi understands that the law firm sent letters of demand to the company up until 1 March 2018. But this matter did not proceed to Federal Court. 

Similar experiences have also been shared by Mr Singh and Ms Kaur 2, 3 and 4.

Ms Kaur 2 says there was only one reason why she continued with the company’s pay and work arrangements - because she was afraid of losing her job.

“When I started work in 2015, a production line would have around 25 workers but later the numbers were reduced to just 16 and the machine speed was also increased,” she said.  

“We had to succumb to this pressure and poor working conditions….  And we were bullied by supervisors and seniors to do more work and were not even given regular breaks.”

SBS Punjabi understands that none of the above-mentioned workers continued their jobs with Della Rosa after they shifted their operations from Braeside to Campbellfield. They either had to resign or their services were ‘terminated’. 

Della Rosa
A screenshot of Della Rosa’s website.
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NUW Organiser Pareen Minhas told SBS Punjabi that they are now preparing to file a Federal Court case against Della Rosa and its director.

“Della Rosa has a culture of exploiting migrant workers from our communities. Workers are underpaid, bullied, harassed, and overworked,” said Ms Minhas.

“The company and its legal representative are not responding to our demands, and there are still ongoing issues of concern for current employees at Della Rosa.   

Ms Minhas said the NUW is in touch with over 20 workers who want to file their claims of alleged underpayments.

“We wish to include all of them in this court case, a reason why we’ll wait for another month before we finally lodge this claim in the court.” 

Della Rosa
Della Rosa office at 52 National Blvd, Campbellfield, Victoria (screenshot Google Maps)
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The law firm Maurice Blackburn is assisting the NUW in commencing these proceedings on behalf of these workers and has recently sent a letter of demand to Della Rosa over the rectification of the alleged underpayment of over $600,000.

The letter of demand mentions a list of at least 17 workers who allege Della Rosa of not providing them with appropriate shift allowances, weekend or public holiday rates, and correct leave loadings.

In a media statement, Maurice Blackburn says they are concerned about the lack of response to its letters of demand sent to the company and will assist the NUW in lodging proceedings in the Federal Court over the coming weeks.

The statement reads – “It has been a very difficult process for workers to bring a claim for underpayment to get back the wages that they are owed because the employer holds a large amount of power against individual workers.”

“Wage theft is a widespread issue facing workers from migrant backgrounds who are vulnerable to exploitation. Most of these workers do not understand their rights and entitlements under Australian law, and they’re afraid to ask for these entitlements.”

Maurice Blackburn has acted in a number of underpayment claims including for 7-Eleven workers. 

Della Rosa
Della Rosa is a brand manufactures pizza that is supplied to Woolworths and other supermarkets.
Supplied

Ms Minhas says a large majority of the workers are women, and many are of Indian descent who don’t know their rights and are too scared to speak out.

“There are almost 300 workers at Della Rosa who have been affected by these underpayments, and we need them to get in contact with us so we can fight for them,” she said.

SBS Punjabi has contacted Della Rosa against these allegations but did not receive any response. 

Do you know anyone affected by a similar situation?  Write to us at preetinder.singh@sbs.com.au. We’ll keep your identity and information confidential.

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