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Woolworths faces $620 million class action by underpaid workers

Woolworths faces class action. Source: Getty
Woolworths faces class action. Source: Getty

A class action has been filed against Woolworths over the underpayment of its workers, who claim the initial $300 million remediation figure posed by the supermarket giant is far less than what was suffered.

In October this year, Woolworths revealed around 5,700 staff working in its supermarkets were underpaid around $300 million, but employment and workplace law firm Adero Law, who has failed the lawsuit on behalf of Cameron Baker, estimates the bill is over $620 million.

“Adero is instructed that current and former Woolworths employees have suffered underpayments and systemic wage theft during their employment at Woolworths on a far greater scale than the retail giant has disclosed,” the law firm’s website states.

Adero Law revealed Baker, the lead claimant, did not receive any back-pay for his previous five years of employment, or an accurate account of underpayments.

“Mr Baker engaged the services of an industrial agent to perform a wage audit which revealed that Mr Baker is being underpaid at least $20,000 per year given the numerous loadings, penalties and allowances that attach to overtime, and work performed on night-shifts (9pm until 6am), weekends and public holidays,” Adero Law stated.

Woolworths’ response

Responding to Adero Law’s class action, Woolworths stated it would “fully defend the proceedings”.

“In the context of its commitment to fully remediate all affected salaried team members, Woolworths Group believes the class action proceedings are without merit,” the company stated.

“Woolworths estimates that the one-off impact for remediation is expected to be in the range of $200-300 million (before tax).”

The initial claim

In its initial statement, Woolworths revealed it arrived at the $300 million figure after a review of payments between September 2017 and August 2019 found an “inconsistency” in pay for some salaried store staff, compared to staff paid under the new enterprise agreement which came into effect in early 2019.

Woolworths said that annual salaries for store workers should cover ordinary working hours and reasonable overtime, but that they were also entitled to be paid the higher of their contractual salary entitlements under the General Retail Industry Award.

As a result, the review found that for some staff members, the number of hours worked and when staff worked weren’t always part of the payment equation.

The supermarket giant stated: “Woolworths Group is committed to fully rectifying these payment shortfalls and an extensive plan is in place to ensure salaried team members’ pay is correct and compliant moving forward.”

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