FWO commends Coles on its ongoing efforts to stamp out non-compliance by dodgy trolley collectors

27 April 2017

The Fair Work Ombudsman has today released a report on the progress of Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd’s (Coles) legal commitment to improve wage compliance and supply chain accountability for its trolley collection services.

The second annual report into Coles’ Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman shows further improvement in the working conditions of the supermarket chain’s trolley collectors as it continues to move the service ‘in-house’.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James has commended Coles for continuing to act on its ethical and moral responsibility to ensure its trolley collectors are being paid fairly and appropriately throughout its network.

“Coles deserves credit for cleaning up its act and continuing to work collaboratively with my agency to turn around a culture of non-compliance in its trolley collection supply chain,” Ms James said.

“During the second year of our EU with Coles, the number of supermarkets with in-house trolley collection services has increased to almost 85 per cent of all Coles sites.”

In October 2014 the Fair Work Ombudsman announced that Coles had, by entering into an EU, acknowledged its ethical and moral responsibility to ensure entities and individuals involved in its trolley collection supply chain were providing equal, fair and safe work opportunities by complying with workplace laws.

In accordance with the terms of the EU, Coles has submitted its second annual report on progress made against each of the undertakings.

The report declares that in the second year of the EU:

  • The number of identified underpayments of trolley collectors decreased to five, compared with six the previous year;
  • The value of underpayments decreased to $17,170, from $40,441 the previous year; and
  • The number of calls to a dedicated hotline for Coles trolley collectors decreased by 50 per cent, from 21 to 11.

Coles also continued to provide workplace relations training to procurement and operational management teams, with 94 teams receiving training since the commencement of the EU.

Ms James said the results showed that whilst there was still work to be done, Coles had made significant advances in addressing non-compliance within its supply chain.

“Trolley collection is a relatively low-skilled, labour intense and often dangerous occupation attracting a large number of vulnerable workers, many of them migrants,” Ms James said.

“In the past decade we have found that a significant proportion of trolley collectors are from non-English speaking backgrounds. Due to a combination of factors such as language and education barriers, visa conditions and cultural constraints, this worker cohort is vulnerable to exploitation, including significant wage underpayments.

“The community expects established and successful brands to make sure workers in its labour network are being paid fairly and lawfully.

“A lead business such as Coles taking steps to ensure their entire supply chain has signed up to doing the right thing can make a significant impact on turning that culture around,” Ms James said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s EU with Coles will continue until 31 December 2018, or until all trolley collection services at Coles supermarkets have been brought in-house.

The decision to insource trolley collection services was made by Coles. While the Fair Work Ombudsman does not hold a view on the merits of outsourcing versus insourcing of trolley collection services, the second annual report notes the number of existing Coles stores with outsourced trolley collection decreased from 218 to 111 out of a total of 776 existing stores.

Where Coles’ trolley collectors are not direct employees, they are engaged by United Trolley Collection (UTC), which in turn engages separate trolley collection businesses.  UTC entered into a Proactive Compliance Deed with the Fair Work Ombudsman in May 2014.

“In both signing up to transparent and robust partnerships with the FWO, Coles and its trolley collection provider have made real inroads into building a culture of compliance in this sector. They have shown the impact that business can have when its takes moral and ethical responsibility for compliance with workplace laws in supply chains and networks,” Ms James said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Anonymous Report function enables members of the community to provide information confidentially and anonymously at www.fairwork.gov.au/tipoff.

Employees and employers who wants to check their obligations and entitlements under Australia’s workplace laws can seek free advice and assistance at www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.  A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50 and information on the website is translated into 27 different languages.

Resources on the website include a Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) that employers can use to determine the pay rates applicable to their employees, including base pay rates, allowances, overtime and penalty rates.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Read the Status of the enforceable undertaking between FWO and Coles Supermarkets

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