7 Market-Driven Features of the Fels Wage Fairness Panel Inquiry into the 7-Eleven Franchise

For anyone who might be looking for evidence of the effectiveness of market-driven initiatives in tackling labour exploitation, seven features of the Fels’ Panel inquiry into wage fairness within the Australian 7-Eleven franchise are worth noting.

  1. The inquiry was not a regulatory enforcement action; it was the franchisor’s independent initiative.
  2. It was set up in response to media exposure and market pressure.
  3. It was led by a panel of consumer experts (rather than industrial relations experts) and equipped with forensic accounting support.
  4. Unlike FWO prosecutions, which were individualised to franchisee/employers (seven prosecutions since 2009), it was able to take a whole-of-franchise approach under purpose-built terms of reference.
  5. It was able to do more than simply address the symptoms of exploitation;  it had the ability to examine a business model that was thought to be contributing to that exploitation.
  6. Unlike the three-year Baiada Chicken Inquiry conducted by the FWO, it accomplished its primary tasks in just six months, with some 2,800 workers receiving a total of almost $10 million in compensation for underpayments.
  7. It achieved its outcomes with the co-operation of the 7-Eleven franchise.

Whilst the final report is still to be released and it might not all be a case of “happy endings”; the success so far achieved by the Fels Inquiry does evidence the potential of market-driven initiatives to address labour exploitation in ways that effectively complement existing regulation of wage standards.

Businessman & Newspaper

 

 

Andrew C. Wood

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