Marketing firms face multimillion dollar wage theft class actions
Class Actions June 4, 2018 11:22 am By Christine Caulfield | Melbourne
In the wake of a major ruling approving a wage class action against fundraiser Appco, more “sham” contracting suits were launched Monday, this time against two international direct marketing companies.

The class actions, filed in Federal Court by Adero Law and the National Union of Workers, allege Aida Sales And Marketing and Credico Australia misclassified hundreds of workers to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime and other benefits.

The multi-million dollar actions, which are being financed by litigation funders Balance Legal Capital and Augusta Ventures, accuse Aida and Credico of breaching the Fair Work Act by classifying their army of employees as independent contractors.

The NUW said the actions were the “opening salvo” in a massive legal battle on behalf of thousands of misclassified Australian workers. The so-called anti-wage theft campaign is also investigating claims against two other marketing companies, global Interactive Group and PCA Group.

“The action is designed to ensure that vulnerable Australians who were badly underpaid, often less than $5 an hour when the legal minimum is more than $17, are paid what they are owed,” NUW assistant branch secretary Godfrey Moase said Monday.

“This money has been stolen from workers and we’ll be damned if we allow these companies to hold on to workers’ money.”

The workers sold products and services door-to-door and in shopping centres for major corporations including Telstra, Optus and Foxtel, the union said. They also raised funds for charities.

Some class members allege they often worked weeks without pay.

Aida and Credico did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

The actions come two weeks after a Federal Court judge greenlighted a “sham” contract class action against Appco Australia Group, led by Chamberlains law firm.

In his ruling on May 18, Justice Michael Wigney criticisd the “clarity” of the case, but found the action had properly alleged that Appco established a standardised system and applied it to all proposed group members.

That alleged system, he said, was “so prescriptive and all-encompassing that they compel a conclusion that all individuals who were party to, or engaged pursuant to, that system were employees of Appco”.

While Judge Wigney found some “problems” in the pleading of commonality between group members, the case met the threshold test for a representative case under the Federal Court Act, he said.

That case is Bywater v Appco Group Australia Pty Ltd.

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Christine Caulfield

Christine Caulfield has been a journalist for 18 years. She was most recently the Co-Managing Editor at US legal news publication Law360. Prior to that she worked as the County Court reporter for The Herald Sun. She is Co-Founder and Editor of Lawyerly.