WOOLIES UNDER FIRE AFTER EXPLOITED TROLLEY WORKERS UNCOVERED

WOOLIES UNDER FIRE AFTER EXPLOITED TROLLEY WORKERS UNCOVERED

CLOSE to 80 per cent of Woolworths stores visited had some form of non-compliance with workplace laws, says the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Fair Work Ombudsman visited 130 sites across Australia while looking into the procurement of trolley collection services by Woolworths and found some trolley collectors were being paid rates as low as $10 an hour.

When Fair Work commenced its Inquiry, the minimum adult hourly rate was between $18.01 and $22.51.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says many of the trolley collectors were overseas workers from India, Sudan, Korea, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran and vulnerable to coercion and exploitation.

"The Inquiry found that while Woolworths' does have some governance systems in place, these have not been effective - and this has contributed to a culture of non-compliance by its contractors," says the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Legal proceedings have commenced against two Woolworths' trolley collection contractors and consideration is being given to litigation against other contractors.

Fair Work says for almost a decade, itself and its predecessor agencies have investigated allegations against businesses providing trolley collection services to Woolworths.

The Inquiry was reportedly initiated because of an overall lack of improvement in compliance, as well as allegations of violence towards trolley collectors at some Woolworths sites.

"We were particularly concerned by allegations of threatening and intimidating behaviour towards trolley collectors at Woolworths' sites in Queensland and South Australia,".

Four trolley collectors complained that their employment had been terminated after they turned to the agency for help, with one saying the employer visited him at home to "pressure him to withdraw" his request for assistance.

Fair Work says given the serious nature of the conduct and ongoing requests for assistance from trolley collectors at Woolworths' sites, it formed the view that a broad examination of compliance with workplace laws by those providing trolley collection services to Woolworths was warranted.

When the Inquiry commenced, Woolworths engaged directly with 33 contractors to provide trolley collection services at its supermarkets and Big W, Dan Murphy's and Thomas Dux stores.

Over the past nine years, the Fair Work Ombudsman and its predecessor agencies have put 13 matters before the Courts alleging the underpayment of trolley collectors at Woolworths, Coles and Costco sites.

Since 1 January 2007, the Fair Work Ombudsman and its predecessor agencies have recovered more than $700,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements for more than 544 trolley collectors nationally.

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