Wage theft is part of a strategic business case for some employers.
Woolworths is facing court for allegedly failing to pay employees properly in a move that could see its $390 million underpayments bill blow out further.
Fair Work Ombudsman investigators looked at the records of 70 managers at Woolworths stores and claimed they had been repaid less than half of what they were owed. Court documents allege they were underpaid $1.17 million, with $713,395 outstanding.
There were 19,000 salaried managerial staff at Woolworths over the period the ombudsman is looking at and the court action signals it believes many of them may have been underpaid.
If the court believes the ombudsman’s case and its figures from the sample of 70 hold across the entire workforce for the 2015-2019 period in question, Woolworths’ underpayment bill could double.
Among the staff the ombudsman has looked at, the highest alleged individual underpayment was $85,905. Many of the alleged underpayments relate to a failure to pay staff overtime.
The company first announced it had underpaid almost 6000 employees. At the time, it estimated the underpayments at between $200 million and $300 million but has since upgraded that figure to about $390 million with $110 million in interest and other costs.
If FairWork was going to do a proper job, it should also investigate substandard pay deals struck between Woolworths and the ‘shoppies’ union, the SDA.