On Wednesday, March 1, Caltex Australia franchisees gathered in Sydney to protest against what they claim is an unfair franchise business model.
Protest spokesman and Caltex Australia franchisee Sanjeev Sharma addressed the press prior to a march from Martin Place to the Caltex Australia headquarters on Market Street.
“We are running businesses at a loss for the last 8-10 years. We’ve been suffering pretty badly at the hands of Caltex,” he said.
“Whatever Caltex is doing is totally unaustralian, and totally unacceptable.
“So we request the media help us to support the cause.
“All these people standing here, and lots of people who have not come, from different states, are in pretty much the same boat as we are.
“Their business model is so unprofitable that we can’t make money off the business model.
“Our families, they work for 12-14 hours … a day to keep the stores open, and then after that we are pretty much working free of charge all day.
“When we request for them to give the monies [Caltex’s franchise safety net] they say give us this paper, give us this paper. They are putting the admin trail everywhere.”
Media: Does that make the underpayment of workers inevitable?
“The root cause of the all the problems is the change in the business model that Caltex changed in 2007-8 and 9, they took away from each store $15,000, and that is the root cause of the whole problem. So the last 15 years, whatever profits we have seen in the Caltex books are simply an accounting adjustment taken from the franchisee books and put into the company books.”
Media: When workers are being underpaid, whose fault is that? Do the franchisees take some responsibility if they are the ones…
“Hold on, if your son is not doing well, is it your responsibility or is it your son’s responsibility? If the money is flowing down the chain, we are not paying, we are responsible. If the money is not flowing down the chain, our families are working for long hours, you tell me who is responsible? Do we sell our houses to pay the wages? You tell me, please tell me.
Media: We’ve got to know [inaudible] Caltex CEO is getting around $10 million in wages every year?
“They’re getting from us? He is not getting $10 million. Last year he got 14 plus, this year he has five or six million dollars. And all this money is the root cause of the problem. They are getting bad and bad, day by day. Simple as that. Have you seen any franchises coming on the street like that? It’s a commonsense question. Why do we come on the street in the first place? Our familes, we live, my kids, they should be in the school today. What are they doing here now? There is a reason. What is the cause for this insurrection? The insurrection rises when there is unfair things. This is totally unfair. Totally unaustralian, what Caltex is doing to us.”
Media: What would you like Caltex to do?
“We ask them to amend the model. We ask them to backpay to us, so we can [pass] it down the chain. And they have to [repay] to us in sharing the profitability. There’s a complete media statement, the details will be in there.”
C&I Week: How many of the franchisees have been asked to pay the $10,000 fee for the auditing by Ernst and Young?”
“Everybody who, they are saying everybody is getting audited…”
C&I Week: Is that every franchise in Australia? Not just the ones accused of underpayment?
“Everybody is getting audited, that’s what they are claiming, and everybody has to pay $10,000. As per the clause in the agreement, they should come down to our sites and do the audit they want to do.”
Media: Can you afford $10,000?
“We can’t. If we could afford, why would we be here? Simple as that. If we could afford to pay wages, if we could afford to make our families, simple as that, if the money is not put on the table, if the food is not put on the table, that is why we come out. Why do you come out? Simple as that.”
“I’m asking you this question: If you are fully satisfied, will you come out? You will not. That means if these people are standing up here there is a reason behind it. There is unfair treatment. There is totally unaustralian something is happening.”
Media: Will you have to lay off workers because of the $10,000 payment?
“For the audit? No, that’s nothing to do with it. The audit is from the company to us, and we have to pay from our pockets. And every second they say can you give us this paper, give us this paper. What are we doing, are we running stores or are we admin staff? For the last two years Caltex is sacking staff after staff, they are totally out of staff now and to fulfill those admin requirements they are asking us to give them the papers, one after the other. We run stores. Six members of the family are working from six in the morning to six in the evening. What more do you want from us?
“And I’ve not paid my family. My father is standing, my mother is standing, my sister is standing, my wife is standing. Everybody. We have not paid them for the last, I am chasing them up, please give me money I don’t have money. Please give me money. And everybody is in the same boat. What to do? You tell me what to do. I’m asking this question. I’m asking the Prime Minister of Australia this question. What should the franchisee do? We’re not the only franchise in the system that is suffering. Dominos came a couple of weeks ago. 7-Eleven came a few weeks ago. When will this stop?”