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Former Subway worker reveals the legal loophole the fast-food giant uses to pay its staff little

A former Subway worker has revealed the fast-food giant used a legal loophole to pay her below the award wage.

Melbourne woman Caitlin Lindon, 18, began working at Subway in 2018, but by the time she left in November last year she was only earning $17-an-hour. 

When she accepted the job offer she assumed her wages were the same as others working for fast-food retailers.

Caitlin Lindon (pictured), 18, began working at Subway at 16 as a dishwasher, earning $9.04 on weekends

But Ms Lindon later discovered the original contract she signed used an outdated enterprise agreement, enabling Subway to pay her under wage rules in place 13 years earlier.  

‘They gave me a contract, which had a few things outlined in it, but it all seemed pretty normal to me, because I didn’t know any better,’ Ms Lindon told 9News.

‘I did talk about it a bit with my friends there too, but we all just thought they were super terrible fast food wages, and that’s how it was.’  

Many enterprise agreements made during the WorkChoice era, before the Fair Work Act in 2009, are still in circulation because of a legal loop hole allowing them to be used past their expiry date.  

They are dubbed ‘zombie agreements’ because they don’t die unless workers renegotiate them, and are estimated to be currently affecting thousands of Australian employees.

The Fair Work Ombudsman slapped Subway with a hefty fine in September last year after it found Australian franchisees owed $150,000 in unpaid wages to dozens of employees

The Fair Work Ombudsman slapped Subway with a hefty fine in September last year after it found Australian franchisees owed $150,000 in unpaid wages to dozens of employees 

When Ms Lindon first started work as a 16-year-old, she was paid $9.04 an hour on weekends.

She believes the multinational sandwich company underpaid her $13,000 over two years.

Under the current award wage, instated in 2010, Ms Lindon would have received $21.41 for her position as a 19-year-old casual employee and penalty rates for working weekends.

Instead her agreement, written in 2017, classified her as ‘part-time’ despite her irregular hours, allowing the business to pay her less.      

Felicity Sowerbutts, Director of the Young Workers Centre union in Melbourne, said Subway franchises were notorious for operating under outdated agreements.

Ms Lindon (pictured) said the Sandwich chain underpaid her around $13,000 over two years using a loophole in Australian industry relation laws

Ms Lindon (pictured) said the Sandwich chain underpaid her around $13,000 over two years using a loophole in Australian industry relation laws

‘With some of these old WorkChoices agreements, because they were passed prior to 2009, it means that so many young workers are not earning an hourly rate which is in accordance with the award. It’s pretty outrageous,’ she said.

Ms Sowerbutts said many of the enterprise agreements wouldn’t pass the Better off Overall Test (BOOT), which assesses payment terms, if they were negotiated today. 

She added that many workers on zombie agreements miss out on penalty rates, and a range of entitlements like overtime provisions or uniform allowances.

Workers can be paid less than the minimum award in Australia because of two main loopholes in Australia’s industrial relations system.

Grill'd came under fire at the end of last year after staff spoke out against their low wages

Grill’d came under fire at the end of last year after staff spoke out against their low wages 

In the first, enterprise agreements written with expiry dates will not automatically expire and remain ongoing unless they are terminated by the employee. 

And while employers need to keep up with annual pay increases for the minimum wage made by the government, it only applies to the hourly base rate in an enterprise agreement.

In September, the Fair Work Ombudsman slapped Subway with a hefty fine after it found the sandwich chain owed $150,000 in unpaid wages to dozens of employees.

Last month, Australian burger chain Grill’d came under fire after staff accused the company of placing employees on unofficial trainee schemes to lower wages. 

A Subway spokesman said the chain has a ‘zero tolerance for deliberate wage theft’.

‘Anyone working in a Subway restaurant is entitled to fair pay and conditions,’ the spokesman told the Nine Network. 

‘Subway undertakes proactive audits of franchisee employment records and has stringent internal workplace review requirements for franchisees. 

‘Failure to meet the law will result in enforcement action, including possible termination of a franchise agreement.’

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Subway for further comment. 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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