A Pakistani student was paid as little as 47 cents an hour to work at a 7-Eleven store in Sydney, lawyers representing employees of the convenience store chain have said.
ABC’s Four Corners program and Fairfax last year revealed workers at the convenience stores were systematically paid about half the minimum wage, with many of those affected being foreign workers.
The convenience store chain set up an independent panel to assess the claims of about 20,000 past and present workers from 7-Eleven franchises.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is representing 60 workers who are claiming back pay from 7-Eleven.
They said one Pakistani student, named Sohail, was paid one lump sum of $325 for about 685 hours of work at a Sydney store.
Two other workers have already been paid, with one of them — student Pranay Alawala — receiving $33,000 in back pay.
Mr Alawala worked in three 7-Eleven stories in Brisbane, where his pay varied between $12 to $15 an hour.
He also performed “training” work for a week, for which he was not paid at all.
When he complained, Mr Alawala’s employer told him they would tell Immigration officials that he had been working too many hours, which was in breach of his student visa.
7-Eleven workers ‘unaware of their rights’
Giri Sivaraman from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said all of the 60 past and present 7-Eleven workers whom the law firm was representing had been completely unaware of their rights.
“They’re unaware of what they should be paid, they’re unaware of their rights in relation to safety, they’re unaware of their rights to take breaks and of their rights to complain,” he said.
“That makes them very vulnerable to exploitation and can lead to workers getting paid 47 cents an hour.”
The law firm also joined affected workers and unions in calling on the Federal Government to establish mandatory employment education programs for international students and those on working visas.
“It’s known to the government who they are and the type of visa they’re on, so we don’t think it’s a significant step to provide them with more information,” Mr Sivaraman said.
A spokesman for 7-Eleven said in a statement the company was “appalled” by the wage exploitation issue and did not condone the underpayment of workers.
He said workers should be afforded all of their rights and the company was acting to eradicate the practice by appointing a special investigator, improving payroll oversight and introducing store audits.
The spokesman said mandatory employment education was a matter for the Federal Government, but said it had introduced new training for franchisees to remind them of their obligations to their workers.