Myer whistleblower exposes 7-Eleven style exploitation then sacked

A 24 year-old whistle-blower who exposed widespread exploitation of cleaners at retail icon Myer who was sacked after speaking out, has now commenced Federal Court action to get his job back.

A month ago 7:30 featured an interview with Rafael Colobon, a Myer cleaner and student from Colombia. He spoke anonymously about cleaners being underpaid by up to $19 p/hr. He was underpaid by at least $7k in three months while cleaning Myer Melbourne.

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Last night 7:30 revealed that the Ombudsman has begun a new investigation of Myer cleaners.

 
7:30’s story showed Mr Colobon going into his dismissal meeting. At that meeting a manager confessed he knew Mr Colobon was a whistleblower in the 7:30 exposé. 

Yesterday, lawyers acting for Mr Colobon made an application to the Federal Court seeking an urgent interlocutory injunction, asking the Court to reinstate Mr Colobon on an interim basis.

United Voice lawyers will argue Mr Colobon was sacked because he spoke out about widespread sham contracting and underpayment of cleaners at Myer. Lawyers will show his dismissal is a breach of the “General Protections” guaranteed under the Fair Work Act. 

On Thursday 22 October ABC’s 7:30 program aired the results of a detailed investigation that included interviews with 30 cleaners across 11 Myer stores. All were found to be underpaid. 

“Mr Colobon blew the whistle on Myer and rampant exploitation of its cleaners. Just a few weeks later he was sacked. A manager even mentioned the 7:30 story during his dismissal,” said Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice, the cleaners union.

“It’s been a month since the first 7:30 story. The Myer subcontractor that ripped off cleaners is still there. But Mr Colobon has been sacked. And last week Myer refused an offer from the Ombudsman to help prevent further exploitation. You have to wonder about Myer’s priorities.”

“This is just the latest example of vulnerable workers being ripped off by unscrupulous employers. We saw it at 7-Eleven, with fruit and vegetable workers and again now with Myer cleaners. There is a real crisis of fear, insecurity and exploitation across Australia right now.” 

“Myer presides over a chain of exploitation. It comes from workers being employed indirectly. We need to break the chain and legally compel Myer to ensure all workers are paid properly.”

“Companies like Myer and 7-Eleven must be compelled to provide a workplace where people can freely choose to join their union, free from fear and intimidation.”

“We need political leadership to rebuild the Australian culture of a fair go for all, where everyone can be free to exercise their rights.”

Mr Colobon said: “Cleaners like me work incredibly hard to keep Myer clean and hygienic and we deserve decent, secure jobs. I tried to ensure we were paid properly. Now I’ve been sacked and I have no income and may have to return to Colombia without completing my studies.”

Myer has been dogged by scandal. In August Myer terminated its previous contractor after a 2014 Ombudsman investigation revealed cleaners were being underpaid by a subcontractor. 

And just last week the ABC revealed Myer rejected an offer from the Ombudsman to enter into a “Voluntary Compliance Deed” to help the retail giant ensure its cleaners are not exploited.

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A DIRTY RECORD: MYER’S CLEANING SCANDAL

 

July 2015

Fair Work Ombudsman uncovers illegal underpayments by  Myer cleaning subcontractors at its Knox City, Highpoint, Fountain Gate and Altona after an unannounced site visit in 2014.

The Ombudsman found that nine cleaning staff had been underpaid by $6300 in a month.

 

August 2015

Myer terminates cleaning contract with national cleaning  contractor Pioneer Services.

Major contractor Spotless Services wins contract and takes over.

Almost immediately cleaners report they are being forced onto  ABN numbers with Myer subcontractors and paid below-award wages with no sick leave, annual pay or superannuation.

 

22 October 2015

ABC1’s 7:30 program airs the results of a month-long  investigation by program. 30 cleaners across 11 Victorian Myer stores were interviewed. All were found to be underpaid.

 

18 November 2015

ABC reveals that Myer rejected an offer from the Fair Work  Ombudsman to enter into a “Voluntary Compliance Deed” to help the retail giant ensure its cleaners are not exploited.

 

20 November 2015

24 year-old whistle-blower who exposed widespread exploitation of Myer cleaners at the retail icon has now been sacked after speaking out on ABC’s 7:30 program.

 

24 November 2015

United Voice lawyers acting for Mr Colobon make an application to the Federal Court seeking an urgent interlocutory injunction, asking the Court to reinstate Mr Colobon on an interim basis.

United Voice lawyers to argue Mr Colobon was sacked because he spoke out about widespread sham contracting and underpayment of cleaners at Myer.

ABC 7:30 program reveals Ombudsman wrote to Myer’s CEO Richard Umbers on 23 November expressing concerns about employees of cleaning contractors engaged by Myer and advising that they have commenced a new investigation.

 


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