Wages recovered for Soul Origin workers

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recovered $78,944 in unpaid wages for 230 workers following an investigation into 39 stores and a manufacturing site for salad, sandwich and coffee franchise Soul Origin across Australia.

Fair Work Inspectors made surprise visits to 38 Soul Origin stores in Canberra, Sydney, Wollongong, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Melbourne, and audited another store operated by the franchisor and its Sydney based manufacturing site, in September last year. This followed multiple enquiries and anonymous reports from workers about potential breaches of workplace laws.

The franchisor operated two of the stores audited, with franchisees operating the remaining 37.

Inspectors interviewed employees, managers and store owners and checked records and pay slips. Records were assessed for compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fast Food Industry Award 2010 or the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2010, as applicable.

The FWO found that of the sites assessed, 33 (82 per cent) were non-compliant with workplace laws. Of these non-compliant sites, 22 had both failed to correctly pay workers and to meet legally mandated pay slip and record-keeping requirements.

In total, the FWO recovered $22,216 for nine workers at two Gold Coast stores; $20,890 for 10 workers in three stores in Adelaide; $10,927 for 53 workers in five Sydney stores plus the manufacturing site; $9,899 for 41 workers in four Melbourne stores; $10,505 for 71 workers in eight Brisbane stores; $2,385 for 34 workers in three Canberra stores; and $2,122 for 12 workers at one store in Wollongong.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the non-compliance rate was disappointing.

“The FWO’s findings across the Soul Origin network should serve as a reminder to all employers within franchise networks that if they don’t prioritise compliance with workplace laws significant numbers of workers can be underpaid,” Ms Parker said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to focus on improving workplace compliance among franchises and across the fast food, restaurant and café industry this year. While the Soul Origin investigation began before the pandemic, the FWO continues to enforce workplace laws in a proportionate manner, as we know COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses in the food industry.”

Inspectors issued 15 Compliance Notices requiring employers to rectify breaches of the law, with the related investigations resulting in $25,674 in back-payments for 164 workers. Inspectors also issued seven Infringement Notices resulting in payments of fines totalling $11,760. These businesses were put on notice that any future breaches are likely to result in stronger enforcement action. Six Soul Origin outlets remain under investigation.

The FWO found issues regarding part-time workers at 24 stores, including the two franchisor-operated stores, and the manufacturing site, with template agreements failing to comply with the Fast Food Award and the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award that meant overtime hours could not be properly identified. The FWO has written to the franchisor, recommending that it reviews the network’s part-time agreement practices to ensure compliance.

Targeted advice and resources for franchises can be found at www.fairwork.gov.au/franchises and for the fast food, restaurant and café sector at www.fairwork.gov.au/frac. Call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or a free interpreter service on 13 14 50.& Know a workplace not doing the right thing but don’t want to get involved? Report it anonymously – in your language.

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