Following the Fair Work Ombudsman’s August call to national supermarket chains and shopping centres, Coles is the first major chain to publicly declare it has an “ethical and moral responsibility” to join with the Ombudsman and stamp out exploitation of vulnerable trolley collectors.
Some trolley collectors are being paid as little as $5 an hour, while the Fair Work Ombudsman recently stepped up efforts to protect collectors, warning the supermarket giants they could no longer turn a blind eye to a “persistent problem”.
In the past six years, the Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered more than $433,000 in underpaid wages and entitlements for 528 trolley collectors throughout Australia.
Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman (Operations) Michael Campbell welcomed Coles’ decision to sign an Enforceable Undertaking and uphold the workplace rights of trolley collectors at all its supermarket sites.
The Fair Work Ombudsman would discontinue 2012 legal proceedings due to Coles’ preparedness to sign an Enforceable Undertaking in accordance with Section 715 of the Fair Work Act, 2009 and back-pay 10 trolley collectors almost $221,000.
As part of the Enforceable Undertaking, Coles will also establish a $500,000 fund that will be used to back-pay any other trolley collectors at its supermarkets found to have been underpaid.
“The model was vulnerable to the exploitation and underpayment of employees of trolley collection contractors and sub-contractors,” Coles stated.
The company has announced that it has since brought trolley collection services “in-house” at more than 400 stores that will be extended to all Australian supermarkets within two years.
Coles will also randomly audit the wages of at least 20% of trolley collectors employed by more than 60 sub-contractors of its primary trolley collection service provider, United Trolley Collections.