Coles sub-contractor fined for underpaying trolley collectors

trolleysTwo former heads of Sydney-based Starlink entities have been fined $94,050 each for underpaying 10 Coles trolley collectors by more than $220,000 in Adelaide.

Starlink director Nidal Albarouki and operations manager Clency Ferriere have been penalised a total of $188,100 for their part in sub-contracting arrangements which ripped off trolley collectors over the course of 18 months, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said.

One migrant employee from India was underpaid almost $90,000.

Coles have provided a first-year report to the Fair Work Ombudsman on the steps they had been taking to stamp out exploitation of vulnerable trolley collectors across hundreds of its sites.

The company revealed since the EU was signed in October 2014, they have back-paid a total of $41.030 to seven trolley collectors; wages of 400 collectors working for 15 sub-contractors were audited; workplace relations training has been delivered to relevant Coles team members; and 558 of its 776 stores now have in-house trolley collection services.

Coles operations and supply chain director Andy Coleman has told the Fair Work Ombudsman the company have transformed its trolley collection service across Australia to eradicate underpayment of trolley collectors.

The penalty, handed down by Justice Anthony Besanko, in the Federal Court, ends more than five years of action by the Fair Work Ombudsman to uphold the workplace rights of trolley collectors in the Coles supply chain in Adelaide.

Besanko found both former heads were responsible for making the contracts between Starlink and their sub-contractors and they were familiar with the basis and rates of pay for trolley collectors.

The now-liquidated contractor provided trolley collection services to Coles supermarkets at West Lakes, Elizabeth, Munno Para and Gawler.

Coles signed an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman in October 2014, publicly admitting it had “an ethical and moral responsibility” for the conduct of all persons involved in its business.

James said there should never be a situation where a worker is owed more each week than they actually receive in their hand. She said besides it being blatantly unlawful, it happens for reasons ranging from innocent mistakes to deliberate exploitation.

“Disturbingly, it has happened when big business either turns a blind eye to, or is willing to hide behind, complex supply chains and sub-contracting arrangements which rely on exploitation of vulnerable workers to make a profit,” she said.

Want more Inside Retail? Subscribe to Inside Retail Weekly now and get our premium print publication delivered to your door every week. 

You have 7 articles remaining. Unlock 15 free articles a month, it’s free.