Australia: Telecom workers sue workforce management co. alleging sham contracting, underpayment

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Article
21 November 2018

Telecommunications subcontractors launch one of the biggest class actions in Australia

Author: Damian McIver, ABC News

Telecommunications workers have launched what lawyers have called an "unprecedented" class action, alleging they are victims of sham contracting.  The case is against workforce management company ISGM (now trading as Tandem Corporation), which supplies subcontractors to Telstra, Foxtel and NBN Co.  "In terms of class actions, we think this particular action is the biggest in Australia [involving workers] and probably quite unprecedented," said Vicky Antzoulatos, a special counsel for Shine Lawyers, which is running the case.  "We expect that there's over 4,000 people that are eligible to join the claim."...

[L]awyers alleged that the subcontractors engaged by ISGM from 2011 onwards were legally entitled to be treated as employees and should thus receive significant compensation.  They said the company had overarching control of the workers, including the hours in which they were available to work, and the circumstances in which they could work for others.  "Those rights include the right to receive a wage, to annual leave, long-service leave, to overtime and other allowances."

Tandem (ISGM) denied the allegations and said its arrangements with subcontractors had been approved by regulators...The lead applicant in the case...said his experience working for the company had a devastating impact on his mental health...

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Article
21 November 2018

Workforce contractor Tandem hit with $400m class action over 'sham contracts'

Author: David Marin-Guzman, Financial Review

A Telstra and Foxtel contractor backed by industry fund-owned IFM Investors is facing a $400 million class action for allegedly underpaying thousands of technicians through sham contracts.  Shine Lawyers filed what is understood to be the largest employment-related class action case ever against Tandem on Wednesday, with the potential of covering more than 4700 workers.  Tandem, formerly known as Infrastructure Services Group Management, is one of Australia's largest private companies...

[T]he class action alleges the company's business model is premised on treating independent contractors as employees but without minimum wages, leave, overtime or other entitlements...Special counsel Vicky Antzoulatos said Shine Lawyers had been investigating the claims since January and that many Tandem workers became overwhelmed by the work conditions, debts and low pay...Several hundred Tandem workers come from the most vulnerable groups, including long-term unemployed, the disabled, Indigenous Australians and former offenders...

A Tandem spokeswoman said the class action was "misconceived" and "evidence will show that our business model is sound"...

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