Aldi may be liable for millions in damages after a court found warehouse workers are underpaid

Aldi could be liable for millions in damages after a federal court judge found the supermarket chain underpaid warehouse workers.

The court has found that Aldi broke labor laws by ordering employees to start work 15 minutes before their scheduled start time.

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Workers at a Sydney distribution center had a number of tasks to complete before they could start work, including conducting safety checks on forklifts, checking communications equipment and conducting a group warm-up activity.

Aldi claimed that it does not underpay its workers and that employees are expected to be ready to start work only at the beginning of their roster work.

However, Judge Douglas Humphreys said he was satisfied that there was “clear implied direction” that staff had to arrive early and undertake those duties and that consistent non-compliance would result in disciplinary action.

“There was no personal benefit for the employee from the activities performed. Everyone was to the advantage of the employer,” he said in his findings.

“In these circumstances, the court is satisfied that the activities carried out constitute work.”

Retail and warehousing union SDA claims Aldi owes its workers in distribution centers up to $10 million in unpaid wages for 10 extra minutes per shift.

A judge has found that Aldi illegally made employees start work 15 minutes before their roster time. Recognition: Luke Koch/AAP

It says the decision could affect around 4,000 current and former workers, a claim Aldi disputes.

The company said it respected the court’s decision and determined the payment owed to four employees directly affected by the proceedings.

“We are reviewing the impact of the court decision on other employees across our business and will try to apply the principles of the court decision fairly to all other affected employees,” an Aldi spokesman said on Wednesday.

“The figures provided by the SDA are materially inflated and not representative of the number of employees we believe could be affected by the decision.”

The SDA said it is still working on calculating individual back payment amounts for its members.

“Aldi joins a long list of large employers who have underpaid their workers,” said NSW branch secretary Bernie Smith.

“Contrary to how the multinational likes to present itself in its ads, it turns out that Aldi is no good and no different.

“Multinational companies operating in Australia cannot make their own rules.”

Judge Humphreys has not yet issued any penal orders. The parties are scheduled to return for a court hearing on Friday.

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James Brien

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