The final day of trading for Max Brenner in Townsville.
The final day of trading for Max Brenner in Townsville.

Max Brenner ‘blackmailed’ unpaid staff

FORMER staff at embattled chocolate chain Max Brenner say they were "blackmailed" into working in the days after being told they had lost their jobs, while still being owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.

Three former Queensland-based employees contacted our sister paper The Courier-Mail and made multiple damning claims against the long-standing brand on the condition of anonymity, fearing repercussions from speaking out.

After entering voluntary administration in late September, the iconic brand closed the doors to 20 of its 37 stores across the country, including nine in Queensland.

A former employee of one of the closed stores said despite first being told they did not have to work the past weekend if they didn't feel they could, they were later told if they didn't they would be classed as having resigned from the company and lose their annual leave and redundancy entitlements.

That was despite employees having not being paid for more than a month, and facing unemployment.

"It was the worst working days of my entire career, they blackmailed us into being there," the former employee told The Courier-Mail.

"We were told on Saturday morning that if we didn't work our rostered shifts, we would have resigned and lose entitlements which we were owed.

"All the staff were devastated. A lot of the time was spent crying in the kitchen, while at the same time being twice as busy as normal and having lots of customers asking us what had happened."

The former employee, who estimates they are owed about $8000 by Max Brenner, also said that most staff discovered that had lost their jobs while on shift, or over social media.

Another, who also lost their job this week after four years working with the company, said often staff would be forced to work up to eight hours alone due to severe shift cuts, in an attempt by the company to save costs.

"It has been incredibly stressful for some time," they said.

Max Brenner has collapsed
Max Brenner has collapsed

Advisory and restructuring firm McGrathNicol was appointed administrator by Max Brenner's company directors on September 30, with a first creditors meeting scheduled for October 11, in Sydney.

It has been claimed by multiple former employees staff monthly wages were regularly paid days late, or in erratic amounts, and superannuation had also not been paid for about 12 months.

Another former employee who worked for several years at one of the Queensland stores before resigning in December 2017, described the working environment at Max Brenner as "toxic".

They also made claims that at least one store had a cockroach infestation which was not quickly addressed by management.

"Cockroaches were everywhere … (it) took the company months to get pest control in," they said.

The former employee claimed they contacted The Courier-Mail as they believed the company "should be shut down, or at least made responsible for their actions and treatment of staff".

Max Brenner representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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