7-Eleven shuts down independent wage panel for exploited workers

11 May 2016
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers will continue fighting to recover unpaid wages and other entitlements owed to exploited 7-Eleven workers after the convenience store chain announced today it was shutting down the independent panel set up to examine claims.

Employment law Principal Giri Sivaraman said news that the panel, chaired by former ACC chairman Professor Allan Fels, was being wound up was “very concerning”.

“The panel has provided the independence necessary to assess the thousands of claims that have so far been made by current and former 7-Eleven employees who fell victim to this systemic worker exploitation and underpayment,” he said. 

“Many of the 7-Eleven workers who came forward to us only did so on the assurance that their claims were being processed by a body independent of 7-Eleven. We’re concerned that this decision will raise the anxiety of both existing clients and people who would have otherwise come forward to receive that they are legally entitled to.

All 7-Eleven clients are being represented by Maurice Blackburn on a pro bono basis.

“Maurice Blackburn has received in excess of $750,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements for our clients after submitted more than $2.5 million in claims,” he said. “On top of that, we still need to lodge about 40 more claims on behalf of other 7-Eleven workers so news that the panel is shutting down is going to cause some serious concern to our clients.”

Mr Sivaraman said the firm would “continue to fearlessly pursue 7-Eleven franchisees to make sure we recover money that is owed to the workers – including many international students – who were taken advantage of.”

The Independent Franchisee Review and Staff Claims Panel was set up by 7-Eleven on 3 September 2015, following reports of widespread exploitation of 7-Eleven workers by 7-Eleven franchisees. It has been described as the one of the biggest cases of wage fraud in Australian corporate history.

The panel announced last month that 300 workers had been paid a total of $10 million in back pay, which is equivalent to an average payout of $38,000. It has a license to continue receiving and processing claims until July 2016, with the potential for extension if the panel deems it necessary. Yet 7-Eleven has announced the panel will cease deliberations from Friday 13 May, 2016. 

Mr Sivaraman urged any 7-Eleven workers yet to seek legal advice regarding underpayment of wages and other entitlements to visit https://www.mauriceblackburn.com.au/7eleven/ or contact the Maurice Blackburn hotline on 1800 243 766.

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