The Woolworths wage theft scandal has blown out to $390 million, owed to 7000 short-changed workers. It has flagged sackings. I’ve had three resume writing clients in the last month tell me about issues they’ve had with underpayment. You don’t read these stories much in Adelaide because they’re not reported by the local media.
The company has set aside $176 million to cover redundancy payouts for workers who will lose their jobs as it replaces distribution centres in Sydney and Melbourne with two more automated centres in Sydney.
Woolworths has not said how many jobs will be lost in its five-year redevelopment plan. But the ABC and News Corp report it will be as many as 1300.
The SDA, which is the union for retail, warehouse and fast food workers, said it was disappointed that further automation of Woolworths’ distribution will mean job losses in the medium term.
“The union hopes Woolworths lives up to its commitment to be ‘conservative’ in handling a process that comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is making the employment of many low-paid workers more fragile and insecure than at any time since the Great Depression,” SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said.
Woolworths said the staff had not been paid properly under the general hospitality industry award in the 2018 and 2019 financial years.
With the inclusion of additional wage records, accrued interest on back-payments still owed and a broader review of awards across the group, Woolworths said the amount it owed current and former staff had blown out by a further $105 million.
The company’s underpayment is one of Australia’s biggest wage theft scandals and was first revealed in October 2019, when Woolworths said it owed about 5700 staff between $200 million and $300 million.
Mr Dwyer said the admission was another acknowledgement that “too many companies have simply been getting their payroll responsibilities wrong”.
Unfortunately, 100 Telstra workers were sacked this week in Adelaide this week as well as sackings at ABC Adelaide and Channel Seven. Not a good week for the City of Churches.