Canberra fundraisers claiming they were paid as little as $600 for 80 hours' work on average each week, and told to do 'chicken fights' and 'slug races' for under performance, are leading a national class action lawsuit against alleged sham contracting.
Six of the seven lead claimants in a case against sales and marketing agency Appco Australia are from the ACT, and claim it denied workers minimum employment entitlements.
Former fundraisers, engaged by local marketing company The Bay Marketing Group, say they worked between 40 and more than 100 hours a week for inadequate incomes.
Claimant Ashley Knight said he worked on average 80 hours and made $600 a week while engaged between 2015 and 2016 by The Bay Marketing, which no longer operates.
"I was working for $12 an hour for my first week and I did 74 hours," he said.
Appco says it doesn't employ charity fundraisers, but sub-contracts marketing companies such as The Bay Marketing that engage fundraisers as independent contractors. Appco also engaged another ACT sub contractor, A1 Marketing.
However the class action led by ACT-based Chamberlains Law Firm claims that Appco has a single integrated business that should provide minimum employment entitlements. Only Appco is the subject of the class action, which has 960 claimants, including 64 from Canberra.
Claimants had an average weekly income of $367, and working hours of 66.7 per week as of February, according to Chamberlains.
"There was so much responsibility and so much shit we had to do. But for the amount I was getting paid and the amount of responsibility I was taking on, it wasn't worth it," Mr Knight said.
Those engaged by The Bay Marketing between 2015 and 2016 say the company told them to dance in its Civic office, race along floors without hands in 'slug races' or duel with their hands behind their backs in 'chicken fights' in front of colleagues for failing to meet sales targets or completing paperwork incorrectly.
Claimant Jonathan Mosslar said the games were used as disincentives for poor sales.
"If you can imagine 20 or 25 people in a circle around you, a lot of noise... In most cases you'd rip your pants or something like that."
The Bay Marketing Group's former managing director Danny Lawrence said the races and dances were intended to boost morale, not as punishment.
"I never received any complaints about these activities while running my business and would definitely have addressed any concerns raised with me."
He denies his company was involved in sham contracting.
Appco said it investigated the allegations of 'slug races' at The Bay Marketing when it became aware of them via the media.
A spokesman said Appco believed they were conducted for motivation and fun, but accepted they distressed some people.
"Appco Australia has made it absolutely clear that these practices are completely unacceptable, regardless of their original intent."
The company says independent contractors were paid on results and chose the hours and days they worked as business owners.
"We have found that a contractor who chooses to do the equivalent hours of a traditional employment working week will, on average, sign up 1.5 donors a day," a spokesman said.
"This will provide them with an income above the minimum wage. But the nature of independent contracting is that it allows people the flexibility to not work the equivalent of an average week, or even full days."
Appco Australia said it undertook reviews of the marketing companies it sub-contracted to ensure they operated in line with self-employment regulations and other laws.
"We are confident that all marketing companies are compliant with the requirements of self-employment regulations and other laws."
Appco has applied to prevent the case against it being brought as a class action.
The class action will have its first interlocutory meeting at the Federal Court in May.