Pizza delivery driver takes on Domino's over outstanding millions

Domino's delivery driver Casey Salt is paid significantly less than the minimum pay of the award. Photo: Michael Chambers
Domino's delivery driver Casey Salt is paid significantly less than the minimum pay of the award. Photo: Michael Chambers

A Domino's pizza delivery driver will move to tear up an exploitative deal between her employer and one of Australia's biggest unions that has left workers underpaid tens of millions of dollars.

The move by Townsville driver Casey Salt, who is taking Domino's to the Fair Work Commission, is the latest challenge to sub-standard agreements struck between big retail and fast food employers and the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA).

It follows a 12-month Fairfax Media investigation which revealed how the "shoppies" union deals left more than 250,000 workers paid less than the award - the wages safety net - and saved Australia's biggest employers more than $300 million a year.

The Domino's agreement is one of the worst and includes a raft of pay and conditions far lower than the award.

Domino's delivery drivers under the agreement receive no casual loadings, no penalty rates, a limited driving allowance, and they work minimum shifts of just two hours.

Ms Salt, also a part time student, works about 10 hours a week, her meagre income supporting her through university.

She would be paid about $80 a week extra or almost a third more under the award. A full-time worker would be paid, on average, at least 20 per cent more a year.

"It's a lot of money, especially for someone on such low wages," said Ms Salt.

"Unions should serve people, they should help people, not exploit them."

Ms Salt's action to terminate the agreement in the Fair Work Commission is in conjunction with the new Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), which was set up to challenge the SDA, Labor's largest private sector union affiliate.

The new union's secretary Josh Cullinan said the application exposed a "national scandal of underpayment" at Domino's.

Every driver covered by the 2005 agreement had been paid less than the minimum wages of the award for many years.

Mr Cullinan estimated drivers across Domino's 600 stores, working an average 10 hours a week, could be losing as much as $20 million a year.

A Domino's spokeswoman said it was working with the SDA on a new agreement that "both meets the better off overall test and modernises our industrial position."

They expect to have a new agreement by the end of the year, she said.

"During the negotiation process, Domino's has complied with its industrial obligations. Domino's has also, in good faith, applied discretionary entitlements increasing our team members take home pay."

In the last year it has started paying a 25 per cent penalty rate on Sundays - which is still significantly lower than the award - while hourly rates were also lifted, but are still below the casual rate in the award.

It said it would be able to deal with the expected large increase in wages.

"As we have reinforced previously, we have strategies in place to combat any increase in labour costs that may result."

Just hours after the RAFFWU made its application to terminate the deal, the SDA - which has been a party to it for 12 years - said it would do the same, making a rare admission it was "deficient".

Domino's was last week hit by a negative investor reaction after it revealed it had failed to reach its own targets for profits and growth.

Domino's Pizza chief executive Don Meij potentially faces a huge increase in his company's wages bill.  Photo: Robert Shakespeare

Domino's Pizza chief executive Don Meij potentially faces a huge increase in his company's wages bill. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

Shares, which had been trading above $50 fell to below $40 on Tuesday, a plunge which wiped more than $850 million off Domino's value in a single day.

The company has been hit by a separate scandal over wage underpayment, also exposed by Fairfax Media, with some of its stores paying even less than required under the sub-standard SDA agreements.

In response to this second scandal, Domino's said it had recovered almost $1 million for workers while a total of 29 franchisees have left after audits by head office.

But the $1 million would be dwarfed by the cost of moving workers onto the award if Ms Salt's application to terminate the SDA agreement is successful.

An estimate by investment bank Deutsche has put the cost of Domino's paying award penalty rates at more than $30 million a year.

Joe de Bruyn, president of the SDA. He presided over many of the controversial wage deals with big business Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Joe de Bruyn, president of the SDA. He presided over many of the controversial wage deals with big business Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The bid to terminate the Domino's agreement comes as a similar process is underway at Coles.

In 2016, the full bench of the Fair Work Commission, in a landmark decision, quashed an agreement between Coles and the SDA as it failed the "better off overall test".

A lawyer for Coles recently conceded that about half the workforce was paid less than the award.

The sub-standard agreements between the SDA and big employers are now the subject of a Senate inquiry with public hearings to begin this week in Melbourne.

Greens Senator Nick McKim took aim at the SDA in parliament last week saying Labor had failed to support changes to competition law, backed by his party and the Coalition, because of the union's cosy ties with big business, notably Coles and Woolworths.

He accused the union of chasing membership numbers to buttress its power in Labor, where it has been a potent conservative voice on social issues, including same-sex marriage.

"The Shoppies have cynically exploited these kids [its members] and others who are part of one of the lowest-paid and most-casualised workforces in this country for decades, just to get numbers," he said.

"The SDA gives unions a bad name and will put young workers off unionism for life."

Labor senator Deborah O'Neill, who is aligned to the union, said the attack "was extraordinary and unwarranted."

"To have Senator McKim rise in this place and claim that the SDA, the union that looks after workers in the retail sector, has undermined penalty rates is absolutely an outrageous and false claim."

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This story Pizza delivery driver takes on Domino's over outstanding millions first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.