Inquiry finds supermarket giant underpaid trolley collectors
AN INQUIRY has found some trolley collectors working for one of the nation's largest supermarket chains have been paid as little as $10 an hour.
The Fair Work Ombudsman yesterday released the findings of the inquiry into the procurement of trolley collection services by Woolworths Ltd.
Of particular concern were "allegations of threatening and intimidating behaviours towards trolley collectors at Woolworths' sites in Queensland and South Australia" which prompted the inquiry.
Four trolley collectors had employment terminated after contacting Fair Work for help, with one reporting the employer visited his home to "pressure him to withdraw" his request for assistance.
During the inquiry, Fair Work inspectors found indications of some form of non-compliance with workplace laws at almost 80% of the 130 Woolworths' sites visited nationally.
While almost 50% presented serious issues and multiple instances of non-compliance, including underpayments and no time records or payslips.
Many of the trolley collectors were overseas workers vulnerable to coercion and exploitation.
Although the inquiry found Woolworths does have some governance systems, their ineffectiveness has contributed to a culture of non-compliance by contractors.
Legal action has started against two Woolworths' trolley collection contractors.
However, further legal action has not been ruled out by Fair Work.
In the past nine years, the Fair Work Ombudsman and its predecessor agencies taken legal action on 13 matters alleging underpayment of trolley collectors at Woolworths, Coles and Costco sites.
Fair Work is urging anyone with information about underpayment to come forward.
In particular, Fair Work is looking for information about the involvement of individuals or companies involved.
Concerns can be reported anonymously here.
Of the 130 Woolworths sites assessed, the inquiry found:
- Indications of some form of non-compliance at 79% of sites
- Indications of serious non-compliance at 49%
- Workers being paid rates as low as $10 an hour at some sites
- Cash payments used to conceal the true identity of employees and the amounts paid
- Manipulation of Woolworths' identity card system
- Inaccurate, false or misleading records and failure to issue payslips
- Workers vulnerable to exploitation and often complicit in acts of non-compliance
- Recruitment of vulnerable workers
- Deficient governance arrangements contributing to non-compliance