Mantle Group Hospitality has had a recent workplace agreement quashed by the Fair Work Commission, which has also taken the extraordinary act of referring the group’s HR chief to the Australian Federal Police.

The Hot Wok Food Makers 2021 enterprise agreement covered 700 employees across 15 venues, including the Pig N Whistle franchise and James Squire brewpubs in Queensland and Sydney. Under the agreement, workers could ‘voluntarily’ waive penalty rates for weekends and public holidays.

However a full bench of the Fair Work Commission found that “a deliberate manipulation of the statutory process for making enterprise agreements” was utilised as the four employees who voted in favour of the new enterprise agreement were two high-paid venue managers, an area manager and a payroll manager who would not be covered by the agreement.

Having dismissed the Hot Wok Food Maker agreement, more than 300 employees that fell under that agreement are now entitled to backpay for the likes of weekend and public holiday penalty rates. Submissions are now to be made over the next few weeks as to the question of costs.

Additionally, in an extraordinary action, the Fair Work Commission also considered referring Mantle Group’s Chief Human Resources Manager, Darren Latham, to the Australian Federal Police, suggesting that he “chose to misrepresent or falsify” his prior declarations made to the Commission. Fair Work Commission general manager Murray Furlong confirmed on Wednesday 1 February that he had made the referral to the AFP.

A Mantle Group Hospitality spokesperson rejected the findings, and backed Latham.

“Mantle Group completely rejects the findings of the Fair Work Commission and believes the statements against Mr Latham are wrong and biased.  Mr Latham is a man of the utmost integrity and has done nothing wrong.  It is extraordinary that the union and others are attacking a worker for simply doing his job.

Mantle Group Hospitality has escalated the proceedings over its enterprise agreement to the Federal Court.

“Hot Wok has received advice from a leading barrister that the statements from the Fair Work Commission are erroneous and there is no basis to assert that Mr Latham has committed any offence or has otherwise acted inappropriately,” stated the spokesperson.

“Hot Wok is confident all decisions of the Fair Work Commission will be quashed by the Federal Court after it hears Hot Wok’s application that the Fair Work Commission was biased.”

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