Disgruntled Caltex franchisees to protest in Martin Place
Up to 150 disgruntled Caltex franchisees will descend on Martin Place in Sydney at noon today (1 March) to protest over their treatment by the petrol giant.
The issue has been simmering for weeks over allegations that some of Caltex’s 650 franchisees were underpaying their employees.
However, a spokesperson for a large group of franchisees, said Caltex was being heavy-handed and was trying to paint a number of its franchisees as “immoral”, “fraudulent” and “exploitative operators”.
“We are happy to help Caltex catch any perpetrators but they are tarring all of us with the same brush. The vast majority pay our employees correctly and all Caltex wants to do is brand us all as cheats.”
He said Caltex was charging each franchisee nearly $10,000 to conduct its audit through Ernst & Young.
“Given the amount of documents Caltex is compelling from franchisees the Caltex franchisees do not consider this to be a realistic estimate of the likely costs they will be asked to pay,” he said.
He said the audit asks for personal records of employees including visas and passports. “Under the Privacy Act, franchisees are not allowed to disclose this information.”
The spokesman said Caltex is jeopardising the livelihoods of Australian families and their local communities. “All franchisees are integral to their local communities and support employment in their local communities. Caltex’s punitive and punishing treatment of their franchisees will impact the livelihoods of the families they employ in their small businesses.”
He said other points included:
- Why has Caltex looked the other way – until recently – when put on notice that some franchisees have underpaid their staff?
- Why has Caltex never provided training or guidance to its franchisees regarding employment obligations until underpayment allegations have recently surfaced?
- Why does it not disclose employment costs in the disclosure documents it gives to franchisees before they enter into the franchise agreement?
- Why does it take the “initial franchise fee” paid by the franchisee for itself after terminating a franchisee for alleged wages underpayment?
He said the group believed Caltex CEO Julian Segal was self-serving and was treating his franchisees with disdain.
“Mr Segal has stated that Caltex has within its franchise model “a safety net which provides support to franchisees so they can operate viably”. Caltex’s profitability assistance scheme is far from a “safety net”. It operates in practice such that a franchisee who is running its business at a loss must plead for assistance at the mercy, and sole discretion, of Caltex. There are no set parameters for this alleged “safety net” and Caltex regularly change the goal posts by placing one hurdle after another in delaying and obstructing the franchisee from receiving assistance. The harsh effects suffered by running a business at a loss are not only felt by the franchisee, but by their families.”