Retailer “aghast” at free work request

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An Australian supermarket has promised employees will be paid fairly after one manager posted an in-store notice asking staff to work for free.

“I am asking team members to give me 4hrs free labour,” read the message, issued in a Western Australian Coles store. “Yes, it is a big ask and I would not be requesting this unless it was absolutely necessary.”

While employees were expected to go without additional wages or time in lieu, the manager did offer free pizza to anyone who gave up their time.

Peter O'Keeffe, state secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers Association (SDA) deemed the request “unacceptable” but admitted it was likely a one-off.

"If an employee of Coles works for the benefit of Coles or indeed for any other company they then are both entitled and required to be paid for it,” he said.

O’Keefe also told ABC Radio Perth that he had spoken to senior level staff at the supermarket’s head office and said they were “aghast” the request had been made.

“They have taken steps to make sure not only that it doesn't proceed but that it doesn't happen again,” he told the media outlet.

Coles has also released a statement in regards to the request, saying the notice was in defiance of company code and culture.

"Coles values the hard work of all of our team members and the notice in the store is completely out of step with Coles' way of working," the statement read.

"The notice, which was posted by a trainee manger, was quickly removed. Any team members working at the stated time will be paid as normal."

However, an employee who contacted ABC asked people not to judge the manager too severely, suggesting he too was under pressure from above.

“It is not right but I wouldn't be too harsh on that person,” said the employee, who identified themselves only as Nick. “The motive for this manager would have come from pressure from the regional manager to have the work completed within a certain time frame.”

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