Cobblers cop a load as complaint results in $206,000 back-pay for 260 workers

More than $206,000 has been reimbursed to past and present employees of Cobbler Plus and Watch Works kiosks across the country, following a complaint from a worker.


Watch Works Australia Pty Ltd and Cobbler Plus Pty Ltd, trading as Watch Works and Cobbler Plus, operate 131 kiosks in every state and territory except Tasmania.


Between July 1, 2010 and May 14, 2012, Watch Works and Cobbler Plus employed around 260 employees.


At all times, they were bound by the General Retail Industry Award 2010, more commonly known as the modern award, derived from a respective state pre-modern award.


The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation lodged by an employee involving a failure to pay the employee as a Retail Employee Level 3 from July 1, 2010 in accordance with the modern award.


Following resolution of the initial complaint, the Ombudsman asked the operator of the kiosks – Soderberg Group Pty Ltd – to conduct a self-audit to determine if other employees had also been short-changed.


Eric Soderberg is, and was throughout the relevant period, a director of Watch Works and Cobbler Plus.


The underpayments arose from Watch Works and Cobbler Plus incorrectly classifying its employees following the introduction of the modern award.


According to the Ombudsman, the employees should have been classified as a Retail Employee Level 3 from July 1, 2010.


The failure to pay employees at the correct classification resulted in an underpayment to the employees.


By contravening the award and the Fair Work Act, Watch Works and Cobbler Plus employees were underpaid their entitlements.


The Ombudsman accepted both Watch Works and Cobbler Plus did attempt to make the transition to the modern award, but failed to correctly classify their employees.


As a result, the company has entered into a repayment plan with the Ombudsman, committing to repay around 260 past and present employees almost $182,000 in underpaid wages and more than $24,000 in underpaid superannuation.


The company has agreed to:

  • Advise within 60 days steps it has taken to implement systems and processes to ensure its ongoing compliance with workplace laws.
  • Place a public notice in major newspapers apologising for its contraventions.
  • Ensure company representatives undertake accredited workplace training courses on minimum entitlements under the Fair Work Act.
  • Appoint at its own expense an independent auditor to report annually each year for three years on its compliance with workplace laws.
  • Take all reasonable steps to relocate and reimburse underpaid former employees.

According to acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully, Soderberg has co-operated with the agency, and the matter is “being dealt with by way of an enforceable undertaking as an alternative to litigation”.


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