Mandurah staff walk off the job over bullying, understaffing claims

A Mandurah restaurant and bar closed suddenly on Friday night after staff walked off the job, with workers claiming they were fed up with being understaffed and bullied by management.

Staff at The Local Shack at the Mandurah Marina left the store high and dry just before the dinner rush, which now-former process manager Tayla Pyke said was due to a culmination of a number of issues with the business.

A WAtoday investigation previously uncovered serious allegations from dozens of former staff about non-payment of overtime, bullying and a toxic workplace culture at the restaurant chain.

Ms Pyke, 22-years-old and with no managerial experience, said she had only been at the store for a week and a half before Friday night.

She said three members of the eight-person restaurant team had quit earlier in the week and she was forced to reconcile staff numbers before the Friday dinner rush last week.

The Local Shack. Photo: MARTA PASCUAL JUANOLA

The Local Shack. Photo: MARTA PASCUAL JUANOLA

"I had no floor staff, and I needed people. I called [management] and [they] said find me a solution and call me back," she said.

Grappling for staff, Ms Pyke found a fill-in; Grace Reilly, a waitress who mainly worked as a chef at The Local Shack.

Ms Reilly said she had already been at the end of her tether at work, saying she had become "on edge and jumpy" after witnessing management swear at a chef and throw a frying pan into the bin in anger.

" [As] soon as I got there I could feel the tension, all staff were really down, depressed," she said.

"[Management] asked what I was doing there, and I said 'I've come to help on front of house'.

"[They] said: 'No you can't - you haven't been trained in front of house, only as chef'.

"I explained that I hadn't been trained in the kitchen either and it was either me or no one.

"They said [they were] better off with no one, and to go sit down."

When management seemed unhappy with Ms Pyke's solution and raised concerns the store was also short of a second chef, Ms Pyke said things turned from bad to worse.

"[Management] were throwing demands away, and asked why I was arguing back. I said I wasn't arguing back, [they] hadn't been there all week so I was trying to explain ... what's been happening," she said.

"They were just being nasty."

Then Ms Pyke said she received a text from a chef who was on a break advising her he would not be returning.

When she spoke to him, Ms Pyke said she told him she "just wanted to walk", and asked him to wait until she could speak to the other staff.

Ms Reilly said when Ms Pyke came to see the staff, they all agreed.

"My manager came to see me and said she had enough, I agreed I had as well, so we decided to all walk out at once," she said.

Ms Reilly said their exit from the store was quick.

"We knew we were in for a night of abuse since [management] was on site, and it was going to be hell with no staff," she said.

"I got the girls to walk in front of me ... we ran off to my car and got out of there and all met up down the road."

According to staff, management - who were waiting at the front of house - eventually realised the team had left and began calling their mobile phones.

But Ms Pyke said none of the former staff members replied, and Ms Reilly said they were relieved to be done at the workplace.

"I'm glad we all left together," Ms Reilly said.

"It makes a statement, I just hope the place gets shut down and no one else ever has to experience the abuse ... when we all met up down the road with the other chef who left too, we all agreed we felt instant relief leaving."

The Local Shack allegedly said it had closed on Friday over a "gas leak", but 16-year-old ex-chef Paige Jones - who had been fired last week - said she was contacted on the same evening to come in and work.

"Yesterday [management] called asking me if I could work, and I was like - 'you fired me!'," she said.

And when Ms Reilly made a post on social media in a private group advising the Mandurah team had all quit, management sent her a screenshot of what she had posted and threatened her.

"Thank you for posting that. It will help alot with fairwork when all your pays are withheld [sic]," they wrote.

In response to the staff's allegations, a spokesman for The Local Shack clarified Friday's events.

"A decision made by management to close on Friday," he said.

"Due to events beyond our control and [as] a consequence we could not deliver the service required to our guests."

The spokesman said four part time employees left without notice.

"The Local Shack does not know why they left, " he said. "All four employees have failed to contact The Local Shack or return phone calls."

The spokesman said it was incorrect for the ex-employees to say they left because they were understaffed and had been yelled at by management.

In response to whether ex-employees would be paid for their outstanding hours worked, the spokesman said The Local Shack would seek legal advice.

"The employees are part time employees subject to an EBA under [the] Fair Work award. They will be paid as entitled and may be owed."

The Local Shack posted job ads to Gumtree calling for team leaders on the same evening, and it reopened on Saturday morning.

The Local Shack and a manager have been ordered to pay a combined $45,200 in compensation and fines in the past 18 months by both the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Federal Court Circuit for the unfair dismissal of three employees.

The business has still not paid any of its ex-employees after the judgments.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has also previously confirmed to WAtoday the company that owns the business is now being investigated.

A spokesman for the Fair Work Ombudsman said it was, "conducting inquiries in relation to The Local Shack", but refused to comment further because the matter was ongoing.

United Voice WA is holding a second information session for former and current The Local Shack employees on November 12.

The Local Shack has been contacted for comment.

This story Mandurah staff walk off the job over bullying, understaffing claims first appeared on WA Today.