Woolworths caught underpaying its workers

Contributed by Ben Wilson

Major supermarket monopoly Woolworths has admitted that it had underpaid nearly 6000 salaried of its workers for the last 10 years. This means that the giant retailer has failed to meet the standards laid out in existing industry award.

The practice is rife in the retail industry. Much of the attention has been on the small operators. It should be on the big players as well. An industrial relations system that allows offending employers to get away with it, is part of the problem. The only time there might be a prosecution is after a case has become a public scandal.

This means that the only way to get redress, is though old-fashioned industrial action and public campaigning.

In the Woolworth’s case, a store manager discovered in February this year that he was being underpaid $8,000 per year, by failing to pay various loadings and overtime he was entitled too.

When it became obvious that many other workers were also being underpaid, stalling and threats no longer worked. An audit was started, and it has come out that the underpayments totaled at least $300 million.

The scandal has led former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James to call for retail companies to review their pay arrangements. Bunnings, David Jones and clothing chain Country Road are three examples of companies that cliam they are starting a similar audit.

Although Woolworths is having to pay out mow, moves to reclaim its self-given right to regain the initiative are underway.

CEO Brad Banducci said the company intends to engage in an “industry-level dialogue” regarding the complexity of modern awards.

More specifically, “At the right time, we’d like to come back and talk about the lack of flexibility in [agreements] when interpreted literally,” he said.

Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, backed this, saying the current industrial relations system meant companies were “vulnerable.”

Is this a signal for a campaign to pull down workers entitlement’s?

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