A class action lawsuit has been filed against convenience retailer On The Run (OTR), on the grounds that it has underpaid more than 8000 current and former employees by between $50 and $70 million. The lawsuit is being fronted by Adero Law, which has also headed cases against Coles, Woolworths, Target and Big W.
According to the claims, OTR used up to seven different methods of underpaying workers, including unpaid work, unpaid meal breaks, involuntary overtime, unpaid work after shifts, insufficient salaries, incorrect rates for trainees, and unlawful deductions from wages.
“The system has failed to protect many thousands of workers – Employers have been allowed to build empires and expand their business portfolios on the backs of employees being paid less than the minimum award entitlements,” said Adero Law lawyer Kellie Pledger.
“The Respondent has had every opportunity to implement fair business practices and has failed to do so, instead they choose to push for settlements without admissions of guilt and continue with business as usual.”
According to OTR it has made it clear to Adero Law, several times, that it intends to correct any payment errors made to its attention. And OTR said the lawfirm had deemed it ‘unhelpful’ to work with the retailer on fixing this problem.
“In these circumstances, OTR has no choice but to defend the case,” an OTR spokesperson said. “The challenges of managing a 24/7 business, with a large workforce across multiple sites and industrial instruments means that mistakes are always possible, which is why businesses, including OTR, have processes in place to investigate and fix any potential issues raised.”
OTR said this process would fix any wage discrepancies raised by employees at no cost to the employee, and would ensure they get 100 per cent of money owed.
Class actions under the microscope
As the threat of underpayment continues, with many large scale businesses having declared they too failed to remunerate staff correctly, more and more workers are turning to class actions to hold business to account.
Things could change soon, however, as the Morrison Government announced it would lead a parliamentary inquiry on the impact of class actions on businesses hit by the Coronavirus.
And it will also look at the relationship between litigation funders and lawyers acting for class action members, with these gunders regularly taking up to 30 per cent of legal settlements and leaving members to split the rest.
Attorney general Christian Porter said the outcomes were not consistent with the interests of justice.
“Why would we not inquire into that phenomenon?” Porter asked, according to AAP.
Shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus, however, said the inquiry was nothing more than a shameless attempt to protect big business, and that class actions provide a vital path for justice for ordinary Australians.