Subway employees fighting for their rights

Published: 19 April 2017

The Project Subway scandal
The Project Subway scandal
You're watching The Project Subway scandal Subway has been hit with claims of illegally underpaying its employees, mandatory unpaid training and bullying. But the workers taking those allegations to head office say they're being ignored.

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Head office reply to underpayment claims

Subway has been hit with claims of illegally underpaying its employees, mandatory unpaid training and bullying. But the workers taking those allegations to head office say they’re being ignored.

In an interview with The Project, 26-year-old teaching student Sarah said that alarm bells started to ring when she was first joined Subway and was asked to complete unpaid video training.

“It was quite long and you had to watch every video to the very end before you could answer all the questions,” Sarah says. “I’d say all up 8 hours.”

She was then offered a rate of $12.50 on the commencement of her first shift, a little under half what she should’ve been paid. And according to Sarah, when she brought this to the attention of the store owner, she was sacked, after just one shift.

To make matters worse, Sarah repeatedly tried contacting Subway’s head office, but was told that as they were a franchise business, pay rates were a matter for store owners.

But Sarah is far from alone. Sisters Renee and Penn McCarthy have been fighting with their Subway store over underpayments. Renee claims she was underpaid at least at least $3000, while Penny got short-changed $4000.

And on top of that they’ve had to do over a dozen hours of unpaid ‘University of Subway’ training – and deal with what they and other colleagues claim is intimidation and bullying by the store owner.

They’ve been paid back some of what they’re owed, but they say they’re still being underpaid. They contacted head office several times to report underpayment, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Solicitor Keelia Fitzpatrick has been visiting Subway stores unannounced and says she's uncovered evidence of all illegal underpayments, mandatory unpaid training, and bullying.

“We’ve heard from two dozen Victorian workers from eight Victorian stores which is a significant number, by far the largest number of complaints from a single company we’ve had.”

And Keelia adds that blaming the franchisees is disingenuous.

“We know Subway sends inspectors out to all its stores to check produce expiry dates, store cleanliness, staff uniforms. They chose to have a lot of oversight over certain aspects of how stores operate and we think it’s completely unacceptable they’re not also having oversight to ensure staff are being paid legally and are safe at work.”

Subway provided the following statement to The Project:

Subway® restaurant owners must comply with all labour laws, including paying their staff in accordance with Australian law. We are conducting a review of recent employee claims. If we discover misconduct, we will take appropriate action including but not limited to possible termination of franchise agreements. We will also work with Fair Work to ensure that underpaid workers receive their lawful pay and entitlement from their employers. We do not tolerate breaches of employment law.

Subway provides resources and guidance to franchisees and their employees. If concerns are raised, we ensure the employee knows about the Fair Work Ombudsman and we will assist the Fair Work Ombudsman if there are allegations of employee underpayment. We encourage discussions between employee and employer to try to reach a resolution through our local state-based teams. In addition, we provide franchisees access to an online and telephone support system, staffed by dedicated employment lawyers, for all workplace law questions. We verify that franchisees understand their obligations as employers. Our field teams regularly highlight the importance of meeting employer obligations. Subway does not tolerate franchisees who break the law.

We will conduct an internal review of the resources and processes we have in place to support employees who allege they are not paid fairly, and we will take appropriate action.

We have been unable to locate a record of any employment questions for the (relevant) store in the last 12 months. We cannot find where the individuals mentioned have logged comments with Subway Systems Australia regarding Worksafe or Bullying complaints.

As mentioned, we are conducting a review of these recent employee claims regarding the allegations. We take these matters seriously and will terminate franchise agreements for proven breaches of workplace laws including underpayment of staff.

We do not tolerate bullying of any sort in our system. We encourage employees with concerns to contact us directly, so we can facilitate fact based discussions with their franchisee employer. If an unidentified store employee calls head office with general inquiries on employment matters, we provide guidance on steps which can be taken. If a store employee can provide specific information, we will investigate further and take action under the franchise agreement if warranted.

These unproven allegations do not represent the efforts of our 1,000+ hard working local franchisees, who do the right thing and are proud of the service they provide to their communities.