Media release

8 July 2009 

City convenience stores back-pay workers $50,000 after watchdog investigation

Fifteen convenience stores in Sydney’s CBD will reimburse 80 workers more than $50,000 after an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found the employees were being underpaid. 

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says inspectors have checked the books of 50 stores selected at random.

About half the stores targeted for scrutiny received surprise night-time visits so inspectors could speak directly to staff, many of whom were from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Mr Campbell says the convenience stores – mostly 24-hour, seven-days-a-week businesses in the inner city – were audited following public allegations by a retail union that young employees were being exploited and that some employers were forging employment records.

He says 15 stores were found to be short-changing staff, mostly because they paid a flat hourly rate and failed to pay weekend and late-night penalties - and 14 were found to be in breach of workplace law because of inadequate record keeping.

Mr Campbell says the exercise provided a good opportunity for the Fair Work Ombudsman to inform and educate employers about their legal obligations to staff and also to increase awareness among vulnerable workers that they do have workplace rights and there is an Agency charged with enforcing them.

With 40 audits finalised, inspectors have recouped a total of $50,551 for 80 workers. Eight investigations remain ongoing.

Workers and employers alike can contact the FWO Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fwo.gov.au for assistance. The Fair Work Ombudsman aims to promote harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.

A new specialist education team has been charged with assisting small to medium sized businesses understand changes to national workplace relations laws.

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484
craig.bildstien@fwo.gov.au

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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Page last updated: 08 Jul 2009