AAP, 10 September 2015

International workers underpaid at 7-Eleven stores want amnesty from deportation before they report exploitation.

Professor Allan Fels is leading a panel to find underpayment in the 24-hour chain stores and says the government should give the amnesty to those who come forward.

“(They fear) they will not be permitted to continue to stay in Australia because of non-compliance with visa restrictions,” Prof Fels said on Thursday.

“If these fears could be allayed by the government, it would greatly assist the panel’s work.”

Prof Fels said a potential amnesty should be decided quickly and people encouraged to bring claims forward.

7-Eleven founder Russ Withers says profit-sharing at franchises is under review, while franchisees can sign up to an enterprise bargaining agreement if they choose.

He said a flurry of changes will happen “in weeks, not months” as the company rebuilds trust after the damaging revelations.

“I am deeply disappointed and dismayed that some people with whom we are in business have abused that trust,” he said in a statement.

“What has happened, happened on our watch, and it is my commitment as founder and chairman that it will be made good.”

A joint Fairfax-Four Corners investigation uncovered systematic underpayment of international students, who were threatened with deportation if they reported it.

The 7-Eleven profit-sharing model was highlighted as one reason why stores could allegedly not be profitable without paying less than the minimum wage.

Mr Withers urged anyone underpaid at a 7-Eleven to contact Prof Fels’ panel.

“The panel’s terms of reference are designed to protect confidentiality, to assess claims of underpayment and – where determined – make good on that underpayment,” Mr Withers said.

Mr Withers, who stepped down from the Australian Olympic Committee after 15 years on Wednesday to deal with the allegations, said senior franchisees were working on a mandatory 7-Eleven charter.

He said any franchisee who wants out will get a refund on their franchise fee and help in selling their stores.

Extracted in full from 9 News.