Caltex ex-franchisee faces legal action

Sarah Stowe

The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking legal action against a former franchisee.

The Ombudsman alleges its attempt to audit a Caltex outlet in Sydney was obstructed by the franchisee providing falsified wage records.

Facing the Federal Circuit Court are Mohammad Arif Rana and his family’s company, Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd, which was formerly the franchisee of a number of Caltex service stations, including two outlets north-west of Sydney at Dural and Ermington.

“Caltex has been and continues to work with the Fair Work Ombudsman, who has been investigating some Caltex-franchised sites. The Ombudsman has an important role to play in ensuring compliance with Australian workplace laws, and has powers to take action where they find non-compliance with those laws,” a Caltex spokesperson told Inside Franchise Business.

“We have taken the actions we are permitted by the relevant Codes and under our agreements with franchisees. We have established an audit process, an independently run whistleblower hotline, and an assistance fund for franchisee employees who have been affected by the conduct of certain of our franchisees.

“We have also improved screening and acceptance processes for people entering into a franchise agreement with us. The operator named by The Fair Work Ombudsman was exited from the Caltex network in 2017 as part of the Caltex audit process.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated the outlets last year as part of a proactive compliance activity involving audits of 25 Caltex service stations nationally.

The Fair Work Ombudsman announced in December it had started legal action against the former franchisee of the Caltex Five Dock service station in inner-western Sydney for allegedly knowingly providing false records to the Fair Work Ombudsman during the compliance activity.

In the latest case, the Fair Work Ombudsman issued Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd with a Notice to Produce and Rana and the company provided timesheets, payroll records and pay slips purporting to show the hours worked and wage rates for 15 employees at the Dural and Ermington service stations.

It is alleged the Fair Work Ombudsman discovered that the time and wage records provided could not be correct because the company had been knowingly using its payroll software in a manner that produced false records.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also alleges that Rana and Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd knowingly provided the Fair Work Ombudsman with false and misleading records.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the legal actions have been commenced because allegedly providing false information that frustrates attempts to check whether vulnerable employees have been paid correctly is very serious conduct.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation relating to the Caltex network remains ongoing.