Marketing giant Appco Group Australia is facing a big court battle after the ABC News revealed that thousands of its young employees are expected to join an $85 million class action over alleged bullying and underpayment.
Appco Group Australia claims to be part of the world’s largest direct sales and marketing group, as well as “the recognised industry leader in Australia”, with its major clients including CanTeen, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Australian Paralympic Committee, Hello Fresh, Alinta Energy and Surf Life Saving Australia.
According to ABC News, lawyers for the Appco employees will allege the group engaged in sham contracting to underpay its young workers ($6 per hour or one third of the minimum wage, on average) and forced them to work 80-hour weeks collecting donations and selling merchandise at shopping centres, malls and other public places.
The lawyers will also allege employees were subjected to repeated bullying and shaming when they questioned their workplace rights, which included strange humiliation rituals when they were late for meetings or failed to meet daily sales targets.
ABC News said these rituals included the employees being forced to dance around in chicken suits, roll around on their backs while colleagues chanted “salmon” and crawl on the floor in what was known as “the slug race”.
Former employees will also allege that they were forced to share single motel rooms in up to groups of eight on road trips.
Appco said in a statement that it was not involved in sham contracting and would not tolerate the practice, according to ABC News.