By Raquel Mustillo
MORE than 30 current and former workers at four Limestone Coast supermarkets owned by Eudunda Farmers have claimed they were underpaid and misclassified as part of legal action that claims the supermarket underpaid staff upwards of $1m.
However, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) expects the number to rise, with the union receiving a “flood” of responses in the last 48 hours – including 15 from Millicent.
Eudunda Farmers was the previous long-term owner of the Millicent IGA, but the business was sold to new owners in September 2021.
The allegations do not relate to the current owners of Millicent IGA.
The union has lodged a claim in the Federal Court against Eudunda Farmers alleging underpayments of at least 64 workers across the state over a number of years.
According to the union, 19 current and former workers at Eudunda Farmers’ Bordertown store, 11 workers at Kington’s IGA supermarket and three workers at Robe’s Foodland supermarket are in statement of the claim.
SDA secretary Josh Peak said the union had been inundated with claims from former workers this week, with respondents reporting widespread non-compliance with the Fair Work Act and the Retail Award, particularly around misclassifications or higher duties.
“Store managers, store supervisors, people who are opening and closing the store, people who are doing cold work, people who are required to wear a type of special clothing weren’t getting classified correctly or getting paid higher duties or higher allowances,” he said.
“What we’re hearing from Millicent and Bordertown specifically is for those who were misclassified… the underpayments are on average $10,000 a year.
“We’re going to be going back six years, so for those people who did work for the entirety of the time, we are seeing underpayments reach up to the $60,000 mark.”
Among the other breaches alleged to have occurred at the Eudunda Farmers stores were the denial of cold work, higher duties and laundry allowances under the Retail Award and workers being denied overtime rates while working more than 38 hours a week.
The union secretary said 87pc of Eudunda Farmers workers were casual employees despite working regular hours – including a Limestone Coast-based manager who was classified as a casual employee for 32 years.
“That high casualisation rate isn’t just terrible for those people who can’t get home loans and have a degree of certainty over their lives, but it’s also a way in which it makes it hard to speak out because they’re worried that they wouldn’t be on the roster next week,” Mr Peak said.
“That is certainly the kind of culture that was existing across those stores and it is a very big issue in some of the stores in the South East.”
In addition to the underpayments, Mr Peak said the union would be seeking backpay for all entitlements plus interest and superannuation.
Mr Peak said the union would ask the Federal Government to impose a $1m fine on Eudunda Farmers for the breaches.
“One of the things that we have tried to reiterate clearly is that for many people, they might think a Foodland or an IGA in a small country town is owned and operated locally and that’s not always the case and that’s not the case this time,” he said.
“Eudunda Farmers is a public company, it has got shareholders and is based in Adelaide.
“They had revenue in the last financial year of $180m, assets of over $70m – the company can afford to pay people properly and they can afford to back pay people.
“What’s outrageous about it is not only were they ripping this money out of that worker who lost $10,000 a year for not being paid correctly, but that is money that has been ripped out of Millicent.
“That’s money that’s taken from the local community… and it’s really not just wage theft of those workers but regional theft from this regional communities.”
Eudunda Farmers were contacted for comment, but did not respond before deadline.