Complaints about underpayment of Coles trolley collectors have fallen dramatically since the company stopped outsourcing their employment at most supermarkets, an annual review has found.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has welcomed the improvement in wage compliance, with 91 per cent of Coles supermarkets now using "in-house" trolley collectors.
The latest annual report on an enforceable undertaking between Coles and the Fair Work Ombudsman shows significant reductions in complaints about wages among trolley collectors throughout its network of supermarkets.
The Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action in 2012 against two sub-contractors operating at several Coles sites, alleging they had underpaid 10 trolley collectors more than $200,000.
Coles paid the 10 collectors the money they were owed by their former employers, who went into liquidation. The company decided to in-source most of its trolley collection services and entered into an enforceable undertaking in 2014 with the Fair Work Ombudsman to provide fair and safe work opportunities in compliance with workplace laws. The agreement included annual progress reports.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said Coles should be commended for the substantial reductions in underpayments, which meant trolley collectors were getting a fairer deal.
“The report outlines clear improvements across a range of areas, indicating that Coles is making real headway in stamping out underpayments across its trolley collection network,” Ms James said.
“Coles made a commitment in 2014 to take responsibility for workplace compliance for trolley collectors in its supply chain. The benefits are being felt by the workers and taxpayers, who have been spared the cost of having Fair Work inspectors investigating the network.”
The third annual progress report on the enforceable agreement shows the number of supermarkets with "in-house" trolley collectors at 736 out of 805 supermarkets across the country last year compared with 655 in 2016.
There was just one complaint of underpayments identified from calls to a hotline for Coles trolley collectors compared with five the previous year.
The size of underpayments reported to the hotline decreased from $17,169 to $2670 in 12 months.
The number of calls to the hotline decreased from 11 in 2016 to three in 2017.
Ms James said it was critical that Coles continue to monitor the situation to ensure that "rampant underpayments and non-compliance do not return to its network".
A spokesman for Coles said it had transformed its trolley collection services.
"Coles is continuing to roll out this direct employment model and is pleased with the progress made," the spokesman said.
"Coles continues to work with the [Fair Work Ombudsman] on its compliance with the enforceable undertaking across the remaining sites with contracted trolley collection."