24 September 2015

CONVENIENCE store chain 7-Eleven will repay staff who were underpaid by franchisees, a Senate inquiry has been told.

Staff advocate Michael Fraser told the inquiry he had been trying to get head office to act since 2012.

“They’ve been alerted to the activities in the stores but they just don’t seem to be that diligent and that keen to have a dig,” Mr Fraser told a hearing in Melbourne today.

But 7-Eleven chairman Russell Withers denied the company knowingly ignored the exploitation of workers.

“I can assure you that there is no cover up,” Mr Withers said. Mr Withers said the underpaid workers would be repaid.

“It’s clear that a number of 7-Eleven franchisees have underpaid their staff,” he said.

“We are doing everything we can to fix it.” The repayment offer extends to former employees who are no longer in Australia with no time limit on the claims, Mr Withers said.

7-Eleven bosses also denied underpayment was an integral part of its business model.

“Underpayment of staff at franchisees in no way benefits 7-Eleven,” Mr Withers said.

“I want to stress this has been highly embarrassing. I apologise unreservedly.” Mr Fraser and law firm Maurice Blackburn said they uncovered systemic rorting meaning tens of thousands of 7-Eleven workers had been ripped off by franchise owners who doctored employment records.

A joint Fairfax-Four Corners investigation in August found up to two-thirds of 7-Eleven stores could be underpaying workers.

Many exploited workers were international students from India and Pakistan who feared deportation if they complained or admitted to working more hours than allowed.

Extracted in full from News.com.au.