The inaugural chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Professor Allan Fels AO, will head a two person independent panel, supported by an independent secretariat to receive and examine claims involving underpayment of staff by 7-Eleven franchisees.
Professor Fels will convene the Independent Franchisee Review and Staff Claims Panel, with former Consumer Affairs Victoria Director, ACCC commissioner and Prices Surveillance Authority chair, Professor David Cousins AM.
The panel will commence next week in Melbourne, and will be supported by an independent secretariat with a team of forensic accountants from professional services firm Deloitte.
Russ Withers, chairman of 7-Eleven, has committed the company to “make good” any underpayment of staff by 7-Eleven franchisees. Earlier this week, a joint Fairfax and Four Corners investigation revealed to two-thirds of the company’s stores could be underpaying workers across the country.
“The bottom line is, what has happened with franchisees not meeting their employer obligations has happened on our watch, and we are going to make this right,” Withers said.
“There is no doubt that Allan Fels, whose position on this issue is well known, will fulfil this role without fear or favour. He is staunchly independent, and with the support of Deloitte’s forensic accountants, I am confident his involvement will help ensure 7-Eleven pays all approved claims promptly.”
Panel Chair, Professor Fels, said the panel has broad investigative parameters, with the clear aim to rectify underpayment of staff, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“We have insisted that extensive efforts, including advertising, be made to encourage those who believe they have been underpaid to contact the Panel. The overall results of the panel’s work will be made public but the names of individual claimants will not be made public by the panel.”
Professor Fels said the panel would seek the support of the Fair Work Ombudsman, which has regulatory oversight, but would act entirely with the intention of correcting any verified underpayment of past or present 7-Eleven franchisee staff members.