Aldi Faces Accusations of Deliberate Wage Underpayment

Aldi, the supermarket chain, is facing allegations of intentionally underpaying over 20,000 current and former employees by more than $150 million in unpaid wages. The Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association has initiated a class action in the Federal Court, asserting that Aldi violated workplace laws over a six-year period by requiring store employees to work up to 30 minutes before their scheduled shifts without compensation.

Last year, a court ruling determined that Aldi had underpaid workers at a distribution centre in New South Wales by instructing them to start work 15 minutes before their scheduled shift times. Despite this, the SDA claims that Aldi had not rectified the situation or fairly compensated the affected workers, even though the company had indicated it would conduct an internal audit of its workforce’s pay.

SDA’s national secretary, Gerard Dwyer, criticised Aldi for failing to take appropriate action to back-pay the workers after losing the Federal Court case. Dwyer emphasised that requiring workers to perform unpaid work before or after their shifts is unlawful and unethical.

The SDA had previously informed Aldi that it would file the class action if the back-pay issue was not addressed, but the union received no response. However, on the same day the SDA filed the class action, Aldi emailed its staff, stating that it had completed an external audit of underpayments involving 10 million shifts and that workers would be back-paid in the coming week. The company did not disclose the total amount of back-pay, promising to provide further details later.

An Aldi spokesperson emphasised the company’s commitment to ensuring that employees are paid correctly. The union expressed concerns about the adequacy and transparency of Aldi’s back-pay plans and suggested that even if the amounts were correct, the supermarket chain could face significant penalties due to alleged deliberate and systemic underpayment practices.

The tasks performed by employees before their shifts included cash register adjustments, safety checks, bin emptying, and device checks. The SDA estimates that the average worker may be entitled to $7,500 in compensation.

Mr Dwyer criticised Aldi’s claims of providing savings to Australian families while undercutting workers’ wages, describing it as a clear example of deliberate and widespread wage theft.

In a separate legal action, the Fair Work Ombudsman is pursuing Woolworths, Coles, and Super Retail Group over allegations of incorrect back-pay assessments for tens of millions of dollars in underpayments.

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