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Optus finds wage underpayments spanning six years to March 2020

Review by the telco finds an average underpayment amount of AU$757.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

In March, Optus was found to have underpaid the superannuation entitlements of 3,600 present and past workers. At the time, the telco committed to undertaking a proactive review of all staff entitlements with the help of Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

A review of the telco's retail staff has now found underpayment of wages from between 1 January 2014 to 17 March 2020 for workers covered by the Optus retail enterprise bargaining agreement.

The Communication Workers Union said on Monday the average underpayment amount from the review was AU$757, with interest and superannuation to be paid on top.

"Optus will be communicating with affected employees, former and current, detailing the error and will make rectification payments on or around 1 October 2021 for current employees and December for former employees," the union said.

"Following the last round of payment anomalies, Optus established a dedicated contact centre to assist affected current and former employees to understand the underpayments and make arrangements to alter payment details. This facility will be again made available to those affected by this discovery."

An Optus spokesperson said the payment gap was due to a "range of changes" on the telco's processes and systems in recent years.

"The majority of Optus retail employees included in the review will receive AU$500 or less, and in many cases, nothing at all. Importantly, Optus is making changes to its processes to prevent future payroll adjustments," they said.

"Optus has commenced contacting current and former employees to apologise for the error."

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin was recently among a collection of telco CEOs that called on NBN's sense of social responsibility for lockdown CVC relief. The telcos said the current program does not come close to covering CVC cost increases that have been experienced since lockdowns hit primarily New South Wales and Victoria, and costs to retailers have risen each month at an "unmanageable rate".

"We've seen a significant increase in our overage bill as a result of the current lockdowns from May until now and that's factoring NBN's relief into account," Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt said.

"We understand NBN has its own financial objectives that it needs to meet, however, the current relief package means that RSPs are paying for an overwhelming majority of the increased usage costs from June onwards. 

"Our proposal more fairly shares the costs of the lockdown between RSPs and the NBN, and means that Australians won't need to pay more for their internet during this critical time."

This time last year, IBM entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman after having to back pay AU$12 million to over 1,600 Australian employees.

Individual back-payments range from less than AU$1 to over AU$145,000. IBM Australia said at the time that many of the payments were less than AU$1,000 and related mainly to motor vehicle usage.

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