Daily News Roundup

October 30, 2019

Image: Dalby Herald

WEDNESDAY, October 30

Woolworths has revealed it has underpaid thousands of its workers across Australia by as much as $300 million over the past 10 years.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Woolworths said it discovered about 5,700 salaried staff across its supermarkets and Metro stores had not been paid in full as set out in the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA).

The majority of the underpaid workers are department managers across its retail stores.

“We unreservedly apologise,” Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said.

“The highest priority for Woolworths Group right now is to address this issue, and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Woolworths said the underpayment emerged when the implementation of a new enterprise agreement highlighted “an inconsistency in pay” under the old agreement for some workers.

The retail giant has estimated the one-off impact of the underpayment could be in the range of $200 million to $300 million before tax, given that the issue goes back as far as 2010.

Woolworths said an “extensive plan” was in place to remedy the mistake, and it would review more than 11 million individual records per year.

It promised that past and present staff who were underpaid would receive their full entitlements, including back pay with interest and superannuation, as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Woolworths will make “interim back payments” before Christmas to affected employees, covering the underpayment it unearthed during the September 2017 — August 2019 period — the two years of records it has audited so far.

As for how this underpayment occurred, Woolworths explained that its employees were entitled to be paid either their contractual salary or “what they otherwise would have earned for actual hours worked under the GRIA” — whichever was higher.

In addition, Woolworths found that the number of hours worked, and when they were worked, “were not adequately factored into the individual salary settings for some salaried store team members”.

The company has reported the issue to the Fair Work Ombudsman, and has hired accounting firm PwC and law firm Ashurst to assist with its internal review.

Woolworths has created a website for affected workers to leave their updated contact details at team.woolworths.com.au.

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Residents in Central West Queensland are celebrating after overnight storms brought patchy downpours to their drought-stricken properties.

And it isn’t finished. A stationary upper low will bring more rainfall to the region over Wednesday and Thursday

The highest total was recorded at a station east of Blackall, which received 50mm

Some areas had not seen any rainfall for months

Jess Gardner from the Bureau of Meteorology said there were also decent falls at Fairview, Quilpie and Blackall, which had not recorded any rain for months.

“There was widespread falls of a few millimetres and then underneath the storms we’re seeing some of those larger totals as well, which is great for those people who really need them,” she said.

“For a lot of the region it has been many, many months since they have seen anything decent.”

Longreach grazier Jenny Gordon said she was “chuffed” by the start of the wet season.

“It’s not everywhere but just in patches you’ll just see green shoots, so this 18mm is just going to be a bonus for us,” she said.

“We’re not in November yet, so fingers crossed this is the start of what’s going to be a more positive season.”

Locals took to Facebook to celebrate the downpour.

Trina Patterson from Rolleston in Central Queensland says she was playing in the rain like a “big, happy kid”

“What the heck is this stuff falling from the sky?” Blackall resident Wayne Smith wrote.

Avril Fazel said the rain at her property, south of Blackall, brought hope for the change of season.

“It’s not the smell, it’s not the sounds, it’s not the cooling effect — it is all of this, but mostly how intangible and esoteric the falling of rain is to the soul during a drought,” she wrote.

Chrissie Bunter at Ilfracrombe said her property measured 5mm of rain — the first fall since receiving 3mm on March 29.

Ms Gardner said a stationary upper low would bring more rainfall to the region over Wednesday and Thursday

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You are not alone, Meghan. In a show of solidarity, 72 women MPs from across Britain’s political spectrum have expressed support for Meghan Markle, the wife of Prince Harry, in the stand she is taking against the media over stories about her character and family.

Earlier this month, Markle began legal action against a newspaper in response to what the couple described as “bullying” by some sections of the British media.

At the time, Harry said the way newspapers were treating his American-born wife was reminiscent of their approach to his mother, Princess Diana. The couple, who have a five-month-old baby, spoke of the pressure of intense media attention in a recent documentary.

Markle, a former actress, said British friends had warned her about tabloid newspapers when she had first met Harry.

“I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair, and that is the part that is really hard to reconcile,” she said.

MP Holly Lynch organised and published the letter, which was signed by 71 of her Member of Parliament colleagues.

“As women MPs of all political persuasions, we wanted to express our solidarity with you in taking a stand against the often distasteful and misleading nature of the stories printed in a number of our national newspapers concerning you, your character and your family,” the letter said.

“On occasions, stories and headlines have represented an invasion of your privacy and have sought to cast aspersions about your character without any good reason as far as we can see,” they said.

Some of the coverage had “what could only be described as outdated, colonial undertones”, which could not be allowed to go unchallenged, the MPs added.

They said that although they had a very different role, they shared an understanding of the “abuse and intimidation” that were often used to disparage women in public office.

Markle has launched proceedings against the Mail on Sunday newspaper over the publication of a private letter that her lawyers said was unlawful and part of a “campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her.”

The Mail on Sunday has denied the accusation.