The ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday night featured two former OTR employees who alleged the Peregrine Corporation had kept the staff on traineeships to avoid paying correct adult wages and were being investigated by the State Government.
In a statement to InDaily, Peregrine said it believed the story was “retaliation” after the ABC had to publish a correction and clarification for a report that aired in September on the same issue.
“The story which went to air on the ABC last night (Tuesday) sought to damage our reputation by misrepresenting traineeships which, like apprenticeships, have been successfully used across Australia for decades.
“After being forced to make a retraction…the ABC has chosen to retaliate by attempting to tarnish the reputation of one of SA’s largest and most reputable employers and in the process the ABC has diminished the traineeship and apprenticeship accreditation that over 300,000 people in Australia are currently undertaking – not everyone has the opportunity to go to university.”
In the ABC report, former employee Chris Norman, 23, claimed he was made to undertake qualifications he didn’t need and was underpaid, receiving $15.30 an hour as a trainee instead of about $19 hour.
The Australian Fair Work Ombudsman states the national minimum wage is currently $17.29 per hour or $656.90 per 38 hour week (before tax).
Casual employees covered by the national minimum wage also get at least a 25 per cent casual loading.
For award and agreement free junior employees, the percentage scale in the Miscellaneous Award 2010 is applied to the national minimum wage.
Claims the traineeship program was being investigated by the State Government were strongly rejected by the company.
“We pay our employees fairly and legally.
“We are not under investigation by any regulatory body (such as the Fair Work Ombudsman, the SA Government, or the South Australian Training and Skills Commission) in relation to our employment practices.
“It is a fact that retail traineeships are commonplace in Australia and thousands of employees have had a great career as a result of participating in training and development at OTR.
“We have been successfully audited twice by the Fair Work Ombudsman in recent years and chosen to engage independent external consultants to further audit our pay rates each year to ensure they are in accordance with the law.
“We have an open-book policy with the government and regulators with respect to our Traineeship Programme and have had positive feedback.
“The traineeship contract for each individual must be approved by the government and cannot be varied or terminated without permission.
“Traineeships are no different to apprenticeships which have been around for decades.
“We welcome the ABC and other media outlets choosing to focus on employers that are actually breaking the law.”
However, in a statement from Employment, Higher Education and Skills Minister Gail Gago, a spokeswoman said Peregrine was being investigated.
“The Department is investigating concerns that have been raised.
“The investigations are still underway.”
With some 2200 staff, the retail giant is South Australia’s second-largest employer.
It posted a financial year result of $1.65 billion, the majority of its revenue is brought in through the OTR service stations and convenience stores.
This year Peregrine announced plans to develop an SA Motorsport Park at the former Mitsubishi Motors Australia test site near Tailem Bend by 2017.
The company now operates more than 90 Smokemart stores and some 80 OTR sites around Adelaide.
Peregrine was named South Australia’s second best performing company, behind Santos, in the InDaily Business Index Top 100 on October 28.
InDaily has contacted ABC management for comment.
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