Coles allocates $20m for salary underpayments

19 February, 2020 by Andy Young

Coles has become the latest company to admit it has underpaid some of its staff, after an ongoing review of its remuneration frameworks found some salaried team members had been underpaid.

Coles said that it has identified that less than one per cent of its total team members had differences between their remuneration and the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA).

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Speaking about staff in its liquor business, Coles said: “The review of our award covered salaried team members in our Liquor business is nearing completion. For approximately five per cent of salaried Liquor managers there is a salary difference relative to the GRIA.

“Coles has taken a provision of $3m for estimated related payments in Liquor over the last six years, and a further provision of $1m for interest and on costs.”

The company has also allocated a further $16m for payments, interest and costs for its salaried managers in its supermarkets business.

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said: “We aim to make Coles a great place to work, and apologise to those team members who have been unintentionally affected.

“We are working at pace with a team of external experts to finalise our review. Once completed we will contact all affected team members, both current and former, to remediate any identified differences in full.

“Coles has implemented steps to improve our systems and processes.”

Coles is just the latest in a long line of businesses to admit to underpaying staff and Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, said he was appalled by the number of businesses who were making these errors.

He said that legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks that will criminalise the most serious forms of deliberate worker exploitation and wage underpayments and introduce significant jail terms and fines.

“Like most Australians, the Government has been appalled by the number of companies that have recently admitted short-changing their staff – in some cases by hundreds of millions of dollars,” Porter said.

“While it’s understood the vast majority of these underpayments were not deliberate and were rectified swiftly, they are incredibly serious and border on negligence given we are talking about sophisticated organisations that should be capable of meeting their obligations under workplace law.

“The Coalition has already increased some civil penalties by a factor of 10, but it is clear to me that more still needs to be done to motivate companies to improve their performance, such as disqualifying directors of organisations that continue to get it wrong.”