7-ELEVEN has dismissed an independent wage panel set to investigate the underpayment of its workers, a decision which has caused concern with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Fels Wages Panel, which was looking into recovering the lawful entitlements of 7-Eleven workers, has been sacked and will be replaced by an internal unit.
While the Fair Work Ombudsman has raised concern over the decision, 7-Eleven chair Michael Smith says the transition of the claims process will continue.
"It is important to state unequivocally that the process for claims will continue and 7-Eleven will pay all legitimate claims by franchisee employees for the past underpayment of wages," says Smith.
"We will ensure claimant confidentiality and the independence of the proposed internal unit that will be responsible to the CEO, be separated from all operational aspects and staff within the business and staffed by appropriately qualified individuals and backed by secretariat."
The new unit will be dedicated to the claims process full-time.
"It is incumbent upon 7-Eleven to take responsibility for this process," says Smith. "Ethical corporate standards cannot and should not be outsourced. We are happy to be held to the standards we have set for and expect ourselves."
Smith says it is prepared to fund additional resources for the Fair Work Ombudsman should that be required for it to take an active oversight role. The Fair Work Ombudsman responded saying this was both "unacceptable" and "ludicrous."
"In fact, the Fair Work Ombudsman confirms it has active, ongoing investigations into a number of 7-Eleven franchisees," it says in a statement.
"There is also a real prospect that we will take legal action against more 7-Eleven operators."
Since July 2009, the Fair Work Ombudsman has placed eight matters before the court involving 7-Eleven franchisees, one of which was a record penalty of more than $214,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says it recognises the fear that may prevent some 7-eleven employees, particular visa-holders, from coming forward to an internal 7-Eleven process now the Fels Wages Pane has been abolished.
It is encouraging visa-holders at 7-Eleven who are concerned about the impact that a claim of underpayment may have on a visa to contact the Ombudsman.
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