Adele Ferguson & Sarah Danckert, 01 November 2015

7-Eleven franchisees have protested in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in an attempt to extract more concessions from head office before signing a new profit split deal.

About 45 franchisees gathered in the car park of Brandon Park 7-Eleven on Ferntree Gully Road in Mount Waverley when Fairfax Media attended the meeting.

A further 50 franchisees met in Brisbane, according to sources, while dozens of franchisees were expected to picket 7-Eleven offices in North Ryde.

The meetings were set up by the recently formed 7-Eleven Franchisees Association Limited, to protest the new deal.

Many franchisees are worried the deal, which sees the bulk of stores receiving a 50:50 split of net profits with head office, is still not enough to cover paying legal wages to staff. There are also concerns that head office will come after them with a bill to pay staff who have applied for compensation with the Fels Wage Fairness Panel.

The panel has paid out 50 staff more than $1 million, with estimates the bill could be as high as $300 million.

7-Eleven agreed to alter its business model after Fairfax Media exposed a systemic wage scam and revealed at least 138 franchisees did not earn enough money to pay legal wages due to the profit split, where head office took 57 per cent of gross profit and franchisees were left with 43 per cent, out of which wages were paid.

It is understood that 7-Eleven managers have been meeting franchisees over the past few days to take them through the new profit sharing deal, which will cost head office $60 million in foregone profit.

Since the media expose more than 50 stores have been advertised for sale, bringing the total to almost 100. There are estimates that the brand damage has sliced goodwill in half. The franchisees are finding it difficult to sell because most of the banks have withdrawn funding for 7-Eleven stores, which has put added pressure on the franchisees.

The protests on Friday are believed to have resulted in a few more concessions including head office paying for gardening, supplies such as cleaning products, paper towels and bad merchandise, which could cost a few million dollars.

At the Melbourne meeting the franchisees were unwilling to talk to the media.

Other franchisees attending the Melbourne meeting were open to being photographed but were soon warded off by the make-shift leadership of the group.

“We don’t want the media here. This is between us and head office,” a franchisee told Fairfax Media at the Melbourne meeting.

The notice of the meeting, obtained by Fairfax Media through franchisees, included the ‘media policy’: “NO COMMENTS AT ALL. Franchisees please be aware anyone who violates this rule may be served a breach notice by head office and association would not be able to help him or her in this regard”.

Franchisees were also warned not to wear 7-Eleven’s store uniform “as we do not want to cause any damage to our beloved brand 7 Eleven”.

“No placards, no slogan, no shouting or causing any nuisance to general public as our stake is very high,” the notice of meeting read.

During the meeting, one franchisee was overheard revving up other franchisees about the need for a fairer deal with head office.

“We can’t afford this. What do they want us to do? We can’t sell because the banks won’t lend for 7-Eleven stores anymore,” said the franchisee.

The Melbourne franchisees had planned to then protest outside of the company’s head office about 2.5 kilometres down Ferntree Gully Road shortly after 10am.

Security in high-vis vests awaited the franchisees at 7-Eleven’s head office in Melbourne.

Franchisees had also let the local police know about their planned protest and according to the sole police officer attending the scene, 7-Eleven had cleared non-essential staff out of its main building in Mount Waverley.

Yet despite private security, the precautions and the small police presence the protest in Melbourne was a fizzer.

Extracted in full from the Sydney Morning Herald.