Former cafe worker hits back at boss' bookkeeping fault

A FORMER cafe worker has challenged management claims bookkeeping problems were to blame for staff being underpaid.

Mitch Talbot said complaints about payment were repeatedly made to Journeys Kitchen and Bar owner Michael Milne.

Mr Milne owes about $220,000 in fines and superannuation contributions to staff on top of $300,000 to the Australian Tax Office, the QT revealed in February.

His company, Mine Concepts, is in liquidation.

Mr Talbot worked in the kitchen of Mr Milne's Ascot cafe, which he owned prior to opening at Springfield.

Mr Talbot said Journeys Kitchen was struggling to pay employees their full entitlements long before Mr Milne opened the Springfield cafe when the payment problems supposedly started.

Journeys Kitchen and Bar owner Michael Milne.
Journeys Kitchen and Bar owner Michael Milne. Contributed

"He often paid cash," Mr Talbot said.

"Tax time came and I never got a group certificate."

Mr Talbot said he was left with a $1100 bill at the end of the financial year.

"I made a complaint with the tax office and never heard anything," he said.

Mr Milne has blamed the situation on "mistakes in relation to bookkeeping" and said there was an accounting problem which meant the payment system was not set up correctly.

That comment frustrated Mr Talbot, who says he is owed superannuation.

"That comment is what annoyed me the most," he said.

"It's rubbish."

Mr Milne, who said rocks had been thrown at his car and death threats made since the cafe closed, reiterated that problems were a result of the poor accountancy practices.

"We thought the Ascot thing (employee entitlements) was taken care of," he said.

"Same thing, none of it got found until the concerns from Springfield were found.

"I thought it had all been handled, I worked with the ATO."

Mr Talbot said other employees reported payment problems to Mr Milne on several occasions.

"Everyone said they were owed overtime, not paid the correct amount or never paid super," he said.

"It's disappointing he's hurt so many people."

Mr Milne said tax office fines for failing to meet financial reporting obligations were too high and said he was "doing the best I can".

"You're trying to work with them to dig yourself out," he said.

"It's not a conducive system to be able to fix mistakes.

"It is a hard gig, they do not make it easy.

Mr Talbot left the Ascot cafe and moved to Journeys Kitchen and Bar Springfield, where he worked about six weeks before resigning.