A SERVO owner who barricaded himself in his Epping store for a month during a long-running dispute with his franchiser, has finlly left after VCAT got involved.

A tribunal hearing on June 14 ruled neither owner Frank Eid or fuel chain APCO could enter the Epping site or his other Thomastown servo until their dispute was resolved.

The tribunal ruled neither party could access the sites because the underground fuel tanks posed a safety risk, and an independent contractor would monitor both sites.



Mr Eid is locked in dispute with APCO because he wants to sell his High St franchise, and a second one in Settlement Rd Thomastown, but says APCO has “warned” away potential buyers, and themselves offered him a low sale price.

Mr Eid said he saw last week’s ruling as a small victory because he could sleep in his own bed at night knowing APCO could not access the service stations without his knowledge.

APCO and Mr Eid would meet at a mediation tomorrow, at which Mr Eid hoped the dispute would be resolved.

“I’m looking forward to the situation ending, it’s gone on for too long,” Mr Eid said.

Meanwhile, some former staff say they are depressed and struggling financially, after the franchise agreement with APCO was cancelled, but still supported their “father-like” former boss.

About 20 people lost their jobs when the agreement with Epping and Thomastown service station owner Frank Eid ended on May 25.

Support from former employees of Mr Eid comes amid an investigation by APCO into employment concerns.

An investigator employed by APCO, who did not want to be named, claimed a number of breaches happened at the service stations and the Fair Work Ombudsman had launched an investigation.

The investigator claimed staff members were paid half “on the books” and half in cash and no penalty rates were paid.

The Leader is not suggesting that the claims are true, only that an investigation is being investigated.

One staff member claimed they were unfairly dismissed by Mr Eid.

Mr Eid, who has spent the past three weeks sleeping in the Epping store, said he “absolutely denied” the claims.

Out of half a dozen former employees interviewed by Whittlesea Leader, all but one said Mr Eid was a “great” employer and they would return to work for him if they could.

Gagan Uppal said he worked for Mr Eid for two years and he was “a father figure”.

Nizar Saleh said he worked for Mr Eid for six years at the Epping service station and since the closure of the store, his four children and wife had survived on Centrelink payments. “I have been suffering panic attacks and we are not using the heater,” he said.

Mr Saleh said he had visited Mr Eid most days since losing his job because he was “a great man”.

Meanwhile, 17 APCO service station franchisees issued a joint statement in support of APCO.

The statement said Mr Eid’s actions had tarnished the brand.

Extracted from Herald Sun