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Red Rooster, Cold Rock hit with child labour charges

Red Rooster has had one of Australia's most complained about ads in 2023.

Red Rooster has had one of Australia's most complained about ads in 2023. Photo: Facebook

Two fast-food businesses in Victoria face hundreds of charges for allegedly breaking child labour laws.

Red Rooster in Wodonga, on the NSW border, has been hit with 355 criminal charges while ice-cream chain Cold Rock in Shepparton, in central Victoria, faces 124, amid a crackdown by the state’s child employment watchdog.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria alleges both businesses breached the Child Employment Act on numerous occasions, including employing children for more hours than they were allowed to work.

Each faces fines of up to $20,000 for every breach of the law.

It has been claimed the Wodonga Red Rooster also employed several children under the age of 15 without the appropriate permit on nearly 170 occasions.

The business also allegedly failed to ensure child employees were supervised by a staff member with a Working with Children Clearance.

“We are very disappointed to learn of these charges,” a Red Rooster spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The matter is still before the court. However, the details of this matter represent a serious breach of our policies, and in accordance with the Franchising Code of Conduct, may lead to the termination of the franchisee’s contract.”

Meanwhile, Cold Rock in Shepparton is accused of failing to provide sufficient breaks of at least half an hour every three hours and employing children later than 9pm.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria Commissioner Robert Hortle said the charges would put other businesses on notice, particularly those in regional areas.

“These are the type of businesses where many kids get their first job, so people rightly expect them to have a strong focus on creating a safe workplace for kids, which is what child employment laws help ensure,” he said.

It follows another case involving Muffin Break Southland, in Melbourne’s Cheltenham.

The small business was hit with 360 charges in April relating to various breaches, including failure to provide breaks and obtain the necessary permits. The case has been listed will be heard in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on June 16.

In 2019, the Fair Work Ombudsman revealed parent company Foodco back-paid 164 Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue staff more than $26,000 staff under a two-year audit and compliance agreement.

Victoria’s child labour laws restrict when businesses can employ children and for how long they can work.

Children must receive a half-hour rest break after every three hours of work and cannot work after 9pm.

Workers under 15 must be supervised by someone who holds a valid employee Victorian Working with Children Clearance.

The latest cases are the nine and tenth the Victorian watchdog has launched in the past 18 months.

-with AAP

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