Soul denies withholding contractors' pay

Soul Telemedia has hit back at claims that a number of its workers have not been paid entitlements after the company shifted some of its functions offshore, after the departure of former CEO Michael Simmons.

Soul Telemedia has hit back at claims that a number of its workers have not been paid entitlements after the company shifted some of its functions offshore, after the departure of former CEO Michael Simmons.

Soul — a member of the Terria group — is currently under investigation by the Commonwealth Workplace Ombudsman, after a number of contractors claimed that their commission payments had been withheld by the company.

The claims surfaced on Wednesday after The Australian reported that the telco owed resellers upwards of AU$1 million cumulatively in unpaid commissions, prompting executives to deny any wrongful conduct, despite admitting that some staff are owed payments.

"Any suggestion that Soul has wrongfully withheld money from these dealers will be vigorously defended," said Stephen Banfield, Soul's company secretary, in a statement.

"Soul has commercial agreements with many dealers in Australia but it has only recently withheld payment from five dealers who are call centre-based operators ... Soul has agreements in place with each of those dealers which entitle Soul to withhold or call back dealer payments in certain circumstances," said Banfield.

The company also defended its decision to shed some staff following changes to its West Australian operations, substantial portions of which have been moved offshore or to New South Wales.

"There has been a recent strategic reduction in the number of staff employed in Western Australia ... Soul has paid all entitlements and issued all termination notices, as the law requires," said a Soul spokesperson in a statement released today.

The telco revealed today that it is "assisting the Australian Workplace Ombudsman" in enquiries into a former Soul reseller, Soul Shop, but no further comment was received from the company or the Workplace Ombudsman as to the nature of this enquiry at the time of publication.

The allegations emerged shortly after the company's former CEO, Michael Simmons, departed the company to head up Terria's bid for the national fibre-to-the-node network.