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7-Eleven responds to underpayment claims

7-ElevenEmbattled 7-Eleven franchisees say some workers – many of whom were underpaid as much as half their wages – are trying to defraud the company.

The convenience chain sacked the independent panel set up to process thousands of claims of underpayment and replaced it with an in-house system to assess “valid” claims.

“We’ve given numbers of examples where we see this process as having been compromised,” new 7-Eleven CEO Angus McKay told ABC radio on Thursday.

But former ACCC chairman Allan Fels headed the now-axed panel and said the “handful” of so-called fraud cases didn’t stand up.

“On detailed investigation, none of these claims stood up as cases of fraud,” Professor Fels said on Wednesday night.

Prof Fels said franchisees were trying to get out of paying thousands of workers – many of them international students who were underpaid as much as half their pay under threat of deportation.

McKay rejected Prof Fels’ claim that 7-Eleven wanted to get out of paying the money.

“I will respectfully say Allan is wrong,” McKay said.

McKay was accused of lying about sacking the panel, after 7-Eleven originally said the panel had “agreed to transition” the claims process.

“We’re getting into the semantics here,” McKay said.

McKay said the panel was terminated after disagreements over whether to include “intelligence” from franchisees about workers committing fraud.

So far 400 workers have been paid since the process began eight months ago, with another 1931 being assessed and a further 1400 about to start.

Prof Fels believes most of 7-Eleven’s 20,000 workers over the past decade have been underpaid by about half.

The company will now publish weekly totals of claims assessed and money paid, after McKay said the independent panel had been taking too long.

“We are weeding out franchisees who are not doing the right thing,” he said.

The union for the ripped-off workers is worried 7-Eleven may be trying to make the scandal disappear from sight.

“You’ve really got to question what 7-Eleven’s motives for doing this are,” SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said in a statement on Thursday.

AAP

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