Dan Conifer, 23 October 2015

The Fair Work Ombudsman says she expects to take more court action against 7-Eleven franchise owners over worker exploitation, but has also urged the company to take responsibility itself.

An ABC-Fairfax Media investigation earlier this year revealed the underpayment of wages and foreign staff being forced to work in breach of their visa conditions.

Ombudsman Natalie James told Senate estimates last night it has taken court action four times since 2009 in relation to 7-Eleven, and about $600,000 had been recovered for staff.

“We do anticipate that there will be more to come,” Ms James said.

“The $600,000 that we’ve recovered for 7-Eleven workers since we began this work is certainly not the total amounts of underpayments owing to the individuals.”

The company has established a panel led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) boss Allan Fels to help staff recover wages.

Ms James said the fabricated records of many franchisees makes producing evidence in court difficult and called on the company to accept liability for the treatment of staff.

“We never intended to go into 600 stores, we couldn’t take that approach, we don’t have the resources to and nor do I actually believe it’s effective,” she said.

“We hope that the panel that 7-Eleven has established … we hope that that will be successful in placing money back into the hands of workers.

“That will resolve the matters for those workers far more quickly than us trying to work through CCTV footage and register logons [etc] … to assemble the evidence we need to prove what hours of work are actually worked.

“It would be far better value to the taxpayer and far more effective I believe for seven eleven head office to step up and take responsibility.

“There are signs, I read in the media, that that is what they’re doing, they’re certainly expressing the intention to do that.”

Extracted in full from ABC News.