Eli Greenblat, 03 February 2016

Convenience chain 7-Eleven, which last year was plunged into scandal over the underpayment of staff in some of its franchisees and allegations of intimidation to keep visa workers in line, has appointed a special investigator to help boost its compliance and governance.

However, 7-Eleven is refusing to name the investigator, only saying he is a former detective who investigated criminal and fraudulent activity.

As part of a review to rip out the toxic culture that allowed some 7-Eleven store owners to underpay and mistreat workers, the special investigator will probe suspected serious breaches of workplace obligations, enabling the company to react quickly.

Bob Baily, the 7-Eleven interim chief executive, said the appointment added an additional layer to the retailer’s compliance protocols.

These included “store audits, enhanced payroll, time sheet and rostering procedures as well as refreshed training and education for franchisees and their employees,” Mr Baily said.

“7-Eleven does not condone the failure to meet workplace obligations, including the underpayment of employees by franchisees, and these measures demonstrate our ongoing commitment to stamping out such practices,” Mr Baily said. A spokesman for 7-Eleven declined to explain why the identity of the investigator needed to remain secret, saying anonymity would help the investigator go about their job.

Last year former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Allan Fels led a company-funded investigation into allegations of 7-Eleven workers being exploited. Professor Fels was joined on the panel by former Consumer Affairs Victoria director and former ACCC commissioner David Cousins.

“7-Eleven is not only committed to ensuring all franchisee employees are accorded their workplace rights, but by supporting the work of the independent panel headed by Professor Allan Fels, is making sure those who have been underpaid receive their entitlements,” 7-Eleven said in a statement yesterday.

To encourage claimants to come forward, 7-Eleven has established a whistleblower hotline so complaints can be made without fear of retribution.

7-Eleven chairman Michael Smith said: “The company is making significant progress toward satisfactory remediation and prevention, but we recognise there is more work to be done.”

Extracted in full from The Australian.