- Coles Group (COL) is the latest Australian company to have underpaid its staff
- The retail super chain admitted on Tuesday that it could owe as much as $20 million to its workers in missing wages from the last six years
- Coles Chief Executive Steven Cain showed remorse after the announcement was made, promising the wheels were already in motion to fix the issue
- The numbers show that Coles supermarket managers may have missed out on $16 million, with the remaining $4 million being owed to workers in the liquor division
- Wage theft has been a hot topic in Australian politics for some time now, with the ABC, Qantas, and Woolworths among 60 companies owing remunerations to staff in 2019
- Shares in Coles Group on the Australian market fell 0.95 per cent on Tuesday, most recently trading at $16.75 apiece.
Coles Group (COL) has admitted to underpaying its staff by as much as $20 million in wages over the last six years.
The revelation was confirmed on Tuesday when the retail chain company, known best for its namesake supermarkets, published its half-year results for the 2020 financial period.
Reportedly up to five per cent of Coles supermarket and liquor store managers were not paid correctly for years — representing roughly one per cent of Coles Group employees.
It is understood that workers in the supermarket division missed out on $16 million, with the liquor division being owed the remaining $4 million.
These underpayments highlighted a discrepancy between the existing payroll and the ‘General Retail Industry Award’ rate.
Coles Chief Executive Steven Cain showed remorse after the announcement was made, promising the wheels were already in motion to fix the issue.
“We are working at pace with a team of external experts to finalise our review,” he said.
“Once completed we will contact all affected team members, both current and former, to remediate any identified differences in full.”
“We aim to make Coles a great place to work, and apologise to those team members who have been unintentionally affected.”
The multi-million-dollar bungle is part of a series of big news for the supergroup this week, as its half-year earnings fell short of that made in the same period last year, while investor Wesfarmers dropped its shares in the company.
Wesfarmers will sell 4.9 per cent interest in the retail chain group, worth around $1.1 billion. The conglomerate will keep its remaining 10.1 per cent investment in Coles, however, maintaining the right to nominate a member on the board.
But the underpayment gaff is a priority for Coles, as the heat has turned up for employers not checking the books correctly.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has put the issue on the frontline for a long time, with Coles competitor Woolworths undergoing the same issue in October last year.
“If [employers] haven’t got that message, well, then they are going to be absolutely and utterly compelled to in the future by the most vigorous, robust and complete set of laws around wage underpayment that Australia’s ever seen,” Christian warned the public on Tuesday.
Late last year, the Fair Work Ombudsman penalised at least 60 companies in Australia for underpaying their staff, including the ABC and Qantas on the list.
Shares in Coles Group on the Australian market fell 0.95 per cent on Tuesday, most recently trading at $16.75 apiece.