Underpaid Woolworths staff must wait a little longer for already overdue pay packets, after the supermarket giant announced it needs ‘additional time’ to review underpayments.
The payments, which are now expected to cost the business $390 million instead of the forecast $300 million, relate to almost a decade of underpaying staff.
Some employees are believed to be owed as much as $100,000.
Woolworths initially expected to complete its review of wages across the company by the end of the 2019-20 financial year, but revealed on Tuesday in an update to investors more time is needed.
“While we have made good progress, and made a number of payments, we’ve found that we need additional time to review the time and attendance records as we progress further back through the years,” a company spokesperson said.
“We know this is frustrating and apologise for the delay, but we want to get it right and make sure each review and back payment is accurate.
“We will continue to work through the review as quickly as we possibly can.”
The company also revealed plans to close several distribution centres in Minchinbury, Yennora and Mulgrave in New South Wales.
These manned operations will be replaced with an “automated regional distribution centre and a semi-automated national distribution centre” in Moorebank Logistics Park.
The SDA, which is the union for retail, warehouse and fast food workers, said it was disappointed that further automation of Woolworths’ distribution will mean job losses in the medium term.
“The union hopes Woolworths lives up to its commitment to be ‘conservative’ in handling a process that comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is making the employment of many low-paid workers more fragile and insecure than at any time since the Great Depression,” SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said.
Repaying workers ‘not the priority’, union says
Josh Cullinan, secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), told The New Daily he was “unsurprised” the value of wages to be repaid has continued to increase since the problem was identified in 2019.
“We are also unsurprised that they attempt to hide the massive delay in paying workers their stolen wages with mass retrenchments at their distribution centres,” he added.
“Clearly the repayment of stolen wages is not the priority of this company.”
Mr Cullinan said Woolworths “would no doubt have a sense of the scale” of the problem, and should be able to repay wages considerably faster than it has so far.
Instead, Mr Cullinan said some workers are expecting to receive some of their money in July, but then face a wait of several months before receiving their next payment.
“None of this is good enough,” he said.
“They had all the resources in the world to profiteer on panic-buying but none when wages were stolen from their own workers.”