ABC refuses assistance to 7-Eleven’s wage repayment investigation

Image from edited ABC video of alleged back pay repayment to a 7-Eleven franchisee.

The ABC has refused to co-operate with 7-Eleven in an investigation of wage repayment allegations, claiming to protect the identity of two whistleblowers, despite their identities allegedly being known to the convenience franchisor.

Yesterday the ABC reported that more workers have come forward with claims that they had been forced by 7-Eleven franchisees to repay their back pay from previous underpayment claims, under threat of losing their jobs.

Following attempts by the franchisor to have the ABC co-operate in an investigation of the allegations by supplying unedited footage of a 7-Eleven worker taking money from an ATM and giving it to her employer, the ABC refused on grounds that such co-operation would compromise the identity of their source.

7-Eleven CEO Angus McKay wrote to ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, explaining that the identity of the source was already known to the head office.

“The ABC’s prime source is known to us as a former employee, and I can guarantee her interests and identity will continue to be protected,” McKay said.

“Our interest is to fully investigate the allegation, and if proven, take appropriate action against the Franchisee, and pursue them for any monies found owing to the staff member(s) involved.”

ABC director legal & business affairs Rob Simpson wrote back to decline the request.

7-Eleven spokesman Clayton Ford said it had also been made clear in his own correspondence ABC journalist Mark Willacy that the ABC was in full knowledge that 7-Eleven knew the identity of their source, and had been in direct contact with her on several occasions.

Ford said the company had encouraged her to come forward to facilitate a full investigation of her claims and to recover the $6,000 she claimed she was owed.

“Therefore, there is no valid reason not to share the material to assist our investigation,” he said.

“It is clear from our investigations who both sources are.”

7-Eleven said that a second source cited in the ABC story had also been in direct contact with the company, but was refusing to make a formal statement to corroborate allegations against the franchisee, and had already confessed to stealing money from the store till.

When asked if the company revealed the identities of the two employees in question to the ABC, in order to prove their claim that they know the identities of the sources, Ford said the company had not.

“They’ve not asked and we’ve not offered,” he said.

“If the ABC were genuinely open to sharing the information we could readily prove that we know who both sources are and have been in direct communication with both on several occasions encouraging them to come forward with statements that we can act upon and – if proven – recover the money they claim to be owed. To date, both have explicitly refused to do so.”

A spokesperson for the journalist’s union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said that the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics was “very clear” about the nature of source protection, which states that journalists should: “Aim to attribute information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances.”

C&I Week has approached the ABC for comment about whether they accept that 7-Eleven does know the identity of their sources, however a spokesman said the broadcaster would not “comment further at this stage”. The national broadcaster has previously refused media enquiries about the same issue.

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