Domino's wage theft class action begins

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Domino's Pizza allegedly instructed Australian franchisees to underpay thousands of workers through its tightly controlled bookkeeping and training systems, a court has been told. 

Lawyers for the fast food giant have faced the Federal Court for the first day of a class action trial, brought by ex-employee Riley Gall.

Mr Gall, a former Queensland pizza delivery driver, has alleged Domino's underpaid him over five years by telling franchise operators to pay staff under the wrong workplace instrument.

He is seeking more than $10,000 in underpaid wages and entitlements, from June 2013 to January 2018.

Mr Gall claimed Domino's wrongly told franchisees to pay delivery and in-store workers under enterprise agreements struck with the SDA union, rather than according to the Fast Food Industry Award.

"The award applied, not the agreement," class action barrister Rachel Doyle SC told the court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

She said Domino's franchisees all used the same training and bookkeeping software, which had pay rates from the SDA agreements "hard-coded in it".

"We say that's misleading or deceptive conduct," she said.

"The system tells you whether they should be paid 'X rate' because they're 16, or 'Y rate' because they're 21."

Ms Doyle said Domino's ran its franchise as a centralised business model using a high degree of control, including by issuing franchise agreements.

"There are clauses in the franchise agreements that require franchise operators to do what was asked of them," she said.

Domino's has denied it underpaid any workers. The court heard it will argue the case should not run as a class action as its franchisees were each different from one another.

Domino's will claim its representations about what rates franchisees should pay workers were opinion and not a fact, and that some franchises did not open emails or download training materials sent to them.

Ms Doyle said this was a "curious position" for Domino's to adopt.

"It amounts to them submitting 'we were a single uniform business ... it was an epic failure because we sent a whole lot of stuff out, unfortunately nobody ever read it, much less did they act on it," she said.

"That is a forensic difficulty that we suggest Your Honour will need the respondent to untangle."

The trial continues on Thursday, when Domino's barrister Gregory Harris KC will make opening statements.


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