Eudunda Farmers Limited accused of wage theft of more than $1 million in regional SA as union launches legal action

SA's shop workers union lodged the claims in the Federal Court on September 11. (ABC News: Carl Saville)

More than 60 current and former workers of supermarkets owned by Eudunda Farmers Limited have claimed they were misclassified and underpaid over several years.

Michael Wilkshire, 22, is not sure how much money he is owed, but thinks he "could probably put all that money towards a deposit on a house".

He has worked at Jamestown Foodland in South Australia's mid-north for five years, three of them as a store supervisor, with responsibilities ranging from inventory and food ordering, to closing the store and counting the till.

Mr Wilkshire claims that for the entire period, no matter his responsibilities, he was paid as a 'level 1' casual employee.

Michael Wilkshire said despite working as a store supervisor for three years, he has only been paid as a 'level 1' casual employee. (Supplied: Michael Wilkshire)

According to the Retail Award set out by the Fair Work Commission, the current legal minimum wage for a 'level 1' casual retail employee is $27.

South Australia's Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) claims Mr Wilkshire is one of 64 current or former employees of Eudunda Farmers Limited who say they've been underpaid and misclassified.

The Adelaide-based company has more than 500 employees and owns 20 IGA and Foodland supermarkets across regional SA – including the one Mr Wilkshire works at.

The SDA lodged a claim against the company in the Federal Court last Friday, seeking more than $1 million worth of unpaid wages for 64 former or existing employees.

SDA alleges 'widespread and deliberate' underpayment

In the statement of claim lodged to the Federal court, the union alleged 47 of the 64 employees involved in the claim against Eudunda Farmers Limited were misclassified as 'level 1' employees.

SDA secretary Josh Peak said that meant the employees were underpaid an average of $10,000 each over a period of six years.

SDA secretary Josh Peak. (ABC News)

He claimed the company's policies are "widespread and deliberate."

"It's in our view incredibly systematic that workers have been deliberately misclassified, that they've not been paid allowances," he said.

"We'll be calling on the Federal court to act not only to ensure these workers are back paid but to send an incredibly strong message that wage theft will not be tolerated."

A further eight employees claimed they had not been paid higher duties allowances, seven made claims for unpaid overtime and 20 employees made claims of unpaid cold work allowances related to working in refrigerated areas.

Calls for permanent work unanswered, union alleges

The SDA also claimed that of the workers involved in the union's claim, 87 per cent were casual employees despite working regular hours for several years.

"We have workers that have been casual employees for more than 30 years," Mr Peak said.

The SDA claims Eudunda Farmers Limited failed to reply to some workers' requests to switch to permanent employment. (ABC News)

The statement of claim asserted that Eudunda Farmers Limited failed to notify employees of their right to convert to permanent employment, and in some instances failed to respond to employees requests for permanence.

One woman employed at the Jamestown Foodland was said to have been "working a regular fortnightly roster … totalling approximately 34 hours per week" for more than a year.

In February 2019, she made a request in writing to the company that her employment be converted to permanent part-time.

The statement said her "request was refused, but not responded to in writing".

Mr Peak said the claim sought compensation for workers and a declaration that the company had contravened the Retail Award and Fair Work Act.

Eudunda Farmers Limited has been contacted for comment.


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