SYDNEY, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Australia's largest supermarket chain Woolworths, has admitted in a statement on Wednesday that the group has underpaid its workers between 200-300 million Australian (137-205 million U.S.) dollars over the past decade.
"Woolworths Group unreservedly apologises after a review found that approximately 5,700 salaried store team members working in Woolworths Supermarkets and Metro stores have not been paid in full compliance with Woolworths Group's obligations under the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA)," the company said.
Beginning the review earlier this year after implementing a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) across its 995 stores, the audit highlighted payment inconsistencies for a number of salaried workers.
"Annual salaries for store team members are set to cover ordinary working hours and reasonable overtime," Woolworths said.
"However, team members are entitled to be paid the higher of their contractual salary entitlements, or what they otherwise would have earned for actual hours worked under the GRIA."
"The review has found the number of hours worked, and when they were worked, were not adequately factored into the individual salary settings for some salaried store team members."
In order to deal with the accounting blunder, the grocery chain said it will now repay the money owed to its employees with the first interim payments to be made before Christmas.
"Woolworths Group is committed to fully rectifying these payment shortfalls and an extensive plan is in place to ensure salaried team members' pay is correct and compliant moving forward," Woolworths said.
"Affected current and former salaried team members will receive their full entitlements, including back payments with interest and superannuation contributions, as soon as possible."
Set to expand the review across all Woolworths Group businesses which include also petrol station chains, the company's apologetic chief executive Brad Banducci said, "the highest priority for Woolworths Group right now is to address this issue, and to ensure that it doesn't happen again".
"As a business we pride ourselves on putting our team first, and in this case we have let them down. We unreservedly apologise," he added.
At 11:15am local time, the company's share prices had fallen 0.53 percent to 37.54 Australian (25.74 U.S.) dollars per share.
Woolworths said an update on the situation will be provided when they announce the Group's Half Year 2020 results in February.