Major retailer admits massive rip off
Another day, another major Australian brand deepens the wage theft scandal plaguing multiple business sectors.
The Super Retail Group - Rebel, Macpac, and Super Cheap Auto owner - had previously announced its own underpayment issue but this morning it added another $8 million to the irregularity.
The company made the announcement when reporting its half-year earnings to the ASX, setting aside $61.2 million to pay back team members who had been ripped off.
"The total amount of retail manager and set-up team member underpayments is lower than initially estimated," the group said in a statement.
The admission comes after both Coles and Target this week added to the humiliation of the sector, evoking widespread condemnation from policymakers and union representatives.
Attorney-General Christian Porter blasted corporate Australia for the "endemic problem" and threatened to introduce new industrial relations reforms to name and shame those guilty of wage theft.
"Get your house in order," he said on Tuesday.
"We've had large organisations that involve themselves in any number of social issues that spend an enormous amount of time, money and effort self-promoting with PR campaigns and national advertising telling us how good they are.
"Pay your people properly."
Mr Porter implored companies to invest and redirect resources to make sure staff members are paid properly and basic workplace law is followed.
"Like most Australians, the Government has been appalled by the number of companies that have recently admitted short-changing their staff - in some cases by hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.
"These are not unsophisticated businesses."
The Morrison Government is due to introduce legislation in coming week to criminalise the most serious forms of worker exploitation with significant jail terms and fines, having already increased civil penalties.
"But it is clear to me that more still needs to be done to motivate companies to improve their performance, such as disqualifying directors of organisations that continue to get it wrong," Mr Porter said.
The admission by the string of retailers comes after a dismal stretch of widespread wage theft cases across retail networks, hospitality businesses and other employers.
In October, Woolworths revealed its own payments scandal involving nearly 6000 salaried team members over nine years, amounting to $300 million.
These include Neil Perry's Rockpool Dining Group, which owes staff at least $10 million, and fellow celebrity chef George Calombaris, who repaid workers $7.8 million.
Others include the ABC, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, Sunglass Hut, 7-Eleven, Bunnings, and Super Retail Group.
The retail union has claimed credit for the revelations at both Coles and Target, saying underpayment in Australia is now a "full blown epidemic".
Both companies "constructively" engaged with the union's industry wide audit that kicked off in November but said other retailers have been reluctant to take part.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) wants to be granted greater power to access and investigate payroll books, insisting the threats of criminal penalties from the government won't work.
"We will only know that he (Attorney-General) and the Morrison government are fair dinkum about ending this epidemic if they restore the rights of unions to have ready access to company payrolls to conduct spot checks," national secretary Gerard Dwyer said.
"This simple step would ensure hard working Australians are paid according to the law as well as avoiding embarrassment for the companies involved, damaging their brands, their reputation and their market value."