Greens MP and spokesman for industrial relations Adam Bandt has introduced a new bill in parliament that will hold head offices of companies responsible for any kind of disputes over wages, as well as conditions of franchisees' employees. The move follows the large-scale wage scandal surrounding 7-Eleven stores across Australia and is expected to have a profound influence on Australia’s franchisee industry.

The purpose of the private members bill, titled "Fair Work Amendment Recovery of Unpaid Amounts for Franchisee Employees," is to put more responsibilities on parent companies by amending the Fair Work Act in respect to the behaviour of the franchisees, especially when it comes to wages.

In other words, the bill would simply enable underpaid employees to file disputes against head offices directly, rather than chasing the franchisee, which might threaten to sack them. The conditions are even worse for foreign workers, who often have to work longer hours than their visa conditions allow them to.

According to Bandt, the proposed bill will generate a cultural shift whereby underpaid workers will not have to go through expensive legal processes and the franchisor instead will look into the matter.

“It is clear that something is wrong with our system when the boss of 7-Eleven is a billionaire and its workers are getting paid under AU$10 an hour and threatened with deportation," Bandt said in a statement before the House of Representatives.

A joint investigation by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in August revealed a widespread underpayment of workers at 620 7-Eleven stores across the country. The introduction of the bill coincided with the 7-Eleven Melbourne franchisees’ meeting with the head office on Monday to discuss a new business model. The new business model was proposed after it was revealed that 138 of 7-Eleven stores did not make enough profits to pay for the wages of its workers.

Along with Bandt, opposition Leader Bill Shorten and newly appointed chairman of 7-Eleven, Michael Smith, have called for amnesty for workers on temporary visas who might not have come forward to report their cases in fear of deportation. The government, however, has declined to provide such provisions for exploited workers.

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