7-Eleven says it is “encouraged” by the early response to its internal Wage Repayment Program, set up following the closure of the Fels Wage Fairness Panel last month, with the first round of claim assessments to be finalised over the coming days.

7-Eleven’s in-house Wage Repayment Program was officially launched late last week, three weeks after announcing plans to shut the Fels Wage Fairness Panel which was established after a Four Corners investigation uncovered systemic wage fraud throughout the convenience chain.

In a statement issued this week, 7-Eleven said the total number of wage repayment claims submitted stands at 3895 (as at May 31, 2016). In the three weeks since 7-Eleven’s decision to take over the repayment process, 192 claims have been lodged. Over the same period, only two claims have been withdrawn. The 7-Eleven Wage Repayment Program will finalise its first round of claim assessments over the coming days.

The convenience chain says it will publicly report the program’s progress. It has also published the terms of reference of the independent secretariat, managed by Deloitte, on the program website .

It comes after Maurice Blackburn, a law firm representing more than 100 7-Eleven workers, and the SDA – the union for retail, fast food and warehouse workers – called for 7-Eleven to publically release the terms of reference for its new wage panel, warning the convenience chain would face legal if it did not comply.

7-Eleven CEO Angus McKay said: “7-Eleven took the Wage Repayment Program process in-house in order to deliver a robust and efficient process that puts money in the hands of aggrieved franchisee staff as quickly as possible.

“While we understand that confidence in the program will ultimately rest on outcomes, not principles and intentions, we are very encouraged by the fact that a significant number of new claims continue to be submitted,” Mr McKay said.

“Our focus now is on maintaining trust with new and existing claimants, by accelerating the assessment of their claims and the payment of entitlements.

“As I have said previously, we are happy to be judged on our actions, and will continue to publicly report our progress as we move forward.”

7-Eleven announced last month that it would close the Fels Wage Fairness Panel and launch its own internal independent unit.

The Fels panel was established in September 2015 after allegations of wage fraud were uncovered following a joint investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC’s Four Corners program.

Professor Allan Fels, who was appointed in September 2015 to head the panel alongside Dr David Cousins, said at the time of the panel’s closure that he believed 7-Eleven decided to axe the panel in order to “minimise the payouts”.

Any former of current staff who believe they have not been paid their full entitlements can submit their claim to the secretariat on 1800 619 802 or www.wagerepaymentprogram.com.au.

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