“Protecting and standing up for the vulnerable through our use of the legal system can help Australian communities come to terms with the injustices of the past and present. Through recognition and compensation, those in need can also find hope for the future. But the fight is far from over.” Jennifer Kanis, Head of Social Justice
A dramatic decline in permanent and secure employment, systemic underpayment and exploitation, and wage inequality and growth are among the many issues concerning Australian workers.
Worker exploitation: Protecting underpaid workers at 7-Eleven
When the systemic underpayment and exploitation of 7-Eleven workers was revealed by ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax Media in 2015, the nation was aghast.
Workers had been routinely underpaid, not by accident, but by widespread doctoring and fabrication of payroll records, time sheets and rosters. There was also proof of understated wage bills, store reviews and explosive documents relating to payroll compliance from the head office of the country’s biggest convenience store chain.
In addition Maurice Blackburn lobbied the Federal Government to grant amnesty to staff who spoke up about the exploitation they had experienced, arguing that without it, workers were very scared to come forward. Protection from deportation was subsequently granted, provided those who came forward were willing to help with investigations into the exploitation.
The firm assisted many staff who made claims for backpay with the independent panel led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) boss Allan Fels that was set up by 7-Eleven in September 2015. That legal assistance has continued for those seeking to be paid what they are owed since the panel was shut down in May 2016.
Maurice Blackburn has received in excess of $3 million in unpaid wages and entitlements for our clients while continuing to fearlessly pursue 7-Eleven franchisees to help recover money that is owed to the workers – including many international students – who were taken advantage of.
Class action for workers’ with intellectual disabilities
Australian workers with intellectual disabilities received backpay for unlawfully discriminatory wages, thanks to an agreement Maurice Blackburn Lawyers reached on behalf of about 10,000 workers in a class action against the Federal Government.
The Full Federal Court decided in a 2012 case that was brought against the Commonwealth by two individual workers with intellectual disabilities that using BSWAT to set the wages of intellectually disabled workers was discriminatory and contravened the Act.
Maurice Blackburn’s class action sought an end to the discrimination, and compensation for those workers who lost wages as a result of the discrimination. An agreement estimated to be worth more than $100 million was subsequently reached between the parties, which was approved by the Federal Court in December 2016.
Affected workers who registered in the class action received an amount directly from the government in a scheme administered by the government.
“If we are serious about addressing violence against women and children, we must also tackle the many key social issues facing women, including gender inequality. For too many women, inequalities persist throughout their life - from childhood, to entering the workforce, starting a family, and in retirement. We must set the standard now that all forms of inequality facing women, and the attitudes and treatment of women that this inequality creates, are unacceptable in modern Australia.” Liberty Sanger, Principal and Board Member Maurice Blackburn, Chair Equal Workplaces Advisory Council Victoria
"Our current workplace structures are failing. We’ve got to restart the conversation about employers acting with integrity." @libertysanger