Ombudsman recoups almost $500k for trolley collectors

TROLLEY collectors working for large supermarket chains and smaller concerns around the country are receiving as little as $5/hour with some workers not being paid for weeks on end.

The Fair Works Ombudsman has already recouped almost $500,000 for underpaid trolley collectors and has four separate matters before the Courts alleging that collectively, 71 trolley collectors have been underpaid almost $485,000.

The Ombudsman has urged supermarket chains to ensure the companies they sub-contract their trolley services to are meeting their obligations to their workers.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that they are determined to hold major employers to account for their procurement decisions, suggesting that they cannot turn a "blind eye" to minimum employee entitlements during the tendering process.

"Undercutting competitors' costs is often the easiest way to win work and labour is the most significant cost," she said. "Costs can, however, only be legitimately reduced so far before the statutory safety net is threatened, usually by below-award wages or employees being 'misclassified' as independent contractors."

Research shows that over a third of the 1500-strong trolley collecting workforce is under 20 years old with 40% without an education beyond Year 10.

Almost 30% of trolley collectors are born outside Australia most in non-English speaking countries.

- APN Newsdesk