Kahlani Pyrah was in federal court on Monday challenging her previous employer Grill'd over what she believes was an unfair dismissal.
Kahlani Pyrah was in federal court on Monday challenging her previous employer Grill'd over what she believes was an unfair dismissal.

Young woman at centre of pay row 'sticks up for herself'

A FORMER Tannum Sands woman at the centre of a workplace row in Victoria has had her court case adjourned until Friday.

Kahlani Pyrah, 20, was employed at burger chain Grill'd, where she began an effort to terminate that company's 2007 wage deal in favour of the basic restaurant industry entitlements.

She claims she was sacked 11 days after she filed the legal application to replace the contract with the modern award.

However, it has been reported she was sacked because of accusations she had been bullying two senior male store managers, claims Ms Pyrah denies.

In a bid to get Ms Pyrah her job back, lawyers acting for hospitality union United Voice took their case to the Federal Court on Monday.

It was adjourned until Friday, but a Grill'd spokeswoman yesterday said the company would refute any claims of unlawful dismissal.

Ms Pyrah wasn't speaking with any media yesterday, but United Voice Victoria released a statement on her behalf.

"I was sacked for standing up for my rights. That's not right," it read.

"I moved to Melbourne to go to uni, and I depend on my job so I can live and study. I want my job back.

"And I want my workmates to get paid the award minimum and for Grill'd to respect our right to join a union and be treated fairly.

"This is supposed to be a democratic country so it should be our choice. But it's not."

Friends say Kahlani is someone who sticks up for herself

Former high school friends from Tannum Sands State High School on Monday described Ms Pyrah as someone who knows her rights, "and she sticks up for herself".

Friend Claudia Howes, 20, first met Ms Pyrah in year 8. She said if it wasn't for her friend, she would never have taken part in a protest or a rally.

But Ms Howes found herself next to Ms Pyrah on the frontline of a protest against federal budget cuts on Goondoon St 12 months ago.

"Before I met Kahlani I didn't know about any of this type of stuff like politics and the budget," Ms Howes said.

"I learned a lot about the budget from Kahlani. She got so many people involved and I ended up really enjoying it.

"I was nervous and I'd never been to anything like that before ... she gave me all this information about it all to the point where I was actually really keen to go.

Crusading against federal budget cuts in 2014, 19-year-old Kahlani Pyrah organised a Bust the Budget rally in Gladstone CBD in less than 24 hours with the support of students, unions, workers and pensioners.
Crusading against federal budget cuts in 2014, 19-year-old Kahlani Pyrah organised a Bust the Budget rally in Gladstone CBD in less than 24 hours with the support of students, unions, workers and pensioners. Mike Richards

"She's such a nice person and I think when you first meet her, she seems very quiet and polite. But she does know her rights and she sticks up for herself.

"If there's ever a rally on for something that she supports she will be there over anything else."

Ms Howes said she had spoken to Ms Pyrah on Monday.

"She was excited that I was speaking to you because it's for the Gladstone paper and it's where she grew up," Ms Howes said.

"She never tried to impress everyone. She would just do what made her happy. Popularity was never something that bothered her."

Ms Pyrah is studying environmental science and law at Monash University. 

Grill'd denies claims

A Grill'd spokeswoman said in a statement that Ms Pyrah's claims were "vigorously denied by management and would be strongly defended".

She said the workplace agreements in place at Grill'd restaurants were legally valid and ensured lawful rates of pay for all employees.

"Grill'd Camberwell is a small family-owned franchise business," the spokeswoman said.

"The franchise partners at this restaurant work very hard to make staff and community responsibilities their highest priority."


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