AN application has been made for bailiffs to visit Number 28 restaurant in Nailsworth after its owners failed to pay in full an Algerian immigrant whom they employed as a chef.
James Richardson and his father Jeremy Charles Richardson, who are directors of Lucky Twenty Eight Ltd, the company which operates the small eatery in Fountain Street have been ordered by Northampton County Court to pay Aissa Benchikh, of Ebley, £4,349.51 for a total of four months’ work.
According to court documents, the two men paid Mr Benchikh, who was employed full-time, one month’s salary for June, but then failed to pay him for the months of July, August, September and October last year, despite the fact that he was working 40-hours per week and had a young family to support.
Mr Benchikh, who worked as a chef in the kitchen of Number 28, had a contract with the restaurant entitling him to an hourly rate of £7.50 per hour, but he has yet to be paid.
In an interview with the SNJ, the 40-year-old said he believed the owners of the restaurant had taken advantage of him and refused to pay him because he was an immigrant and could not speak English fluently.
Mr Benchikh said at first he took James Richardson at his word when the restaurant manager repeatedly promised to pay him, but after four months of having not received his salary he decided to quit.
He alleges that when he informed the younger of the two men about his plans to take legal action, he was told by Mr Richardson’s son that he could not engage the services of a solicitor because he had not worked at the restaurant for at least two years.
James Richardson was given several opportunities to comment, but told the SNJ he had been advised by his solicitor not to.
He added that he did not recognise Mr Benchikh’s version of events.
Number 28 defended Mr Benchikh’s claim when the case went to county court, disputing the number of hours he had worked as a chef, but the court found in Mr Benchikh’s favour.
Mr Benchikh, who moved to the UK in 2004 with his British wife Holly, with whom he has two children said that the situation had put an enormous strain on his health and family life.
He said he was in financial difficulty as a result of having not been paid and that it was affecting his sleep and had left him struggling to pay his utility bills and rent.
“This has caused me a lot of stress, but I feel as though it is my fault too because I believed him (James Richardson).
“I think people use me because I am too friendly, I believe in people.
“English people would not accept this, but I believed that he would give me the money.
He added: “It has made my life hell as I have had money problems. I started working at Number 28 in April 2013. He paid me the first two weeks fine, but after that I had problems.
“Sometimes he would just give me £80 and say there you go, you can go and buy food for your family but I said no, you owe me thousands of pounds.”
In October of last year, without any explanation, Mr Benchikh was paid £2,734.24 by his former employer, but the chef insisted that sum fell well short of what he was owed.
On March 27, 2014, Northampton County Court ruled on his case and agreed with him, ordering the Nailsworth restaurant to pay him an additional £4,149.51 plus costs.
With the legal process taking so long, Mr Benchikh said at one point he had even contemplated going on hunger strike outside the restaurant in an attempt to force the Richardsons to pay him.
“If I get arrested and go to prison, fine, no problem. I haven’t done anything wrong.
“I think I am okay because I am in a democracy, I have rights,” he said.
Five months after the court’s verdict, Mr Benchikh is still awaiting payment but his solicitor David Ferraby has now submitted an application for the court bailiffs to recover his client’s money.
Mr Benchikh, who sends a portion of what he earns back to his elderly parents in Algeria every month, is now hopeful the application will finally lead to the matter being resolved.
“It is not only about the money,” he said.
“I worked hard for him. I put my heart into it.”