SCANDAL-ridden retailer 7-Eleven has disbanded the independent wages panel investigating its practices and claims of employee exploitation at shops around Australia.
The 24-hour retailer has been plagued by reports of underpayment and non-payment of employees, particularly vulnerable international university students.
A statement from 7-Eleven said the panel - led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chief Professor Allan Fels - had agreed to move the claims process to "an independent unit within 7-Eleven", but Prof Fels told the ABC he was informed of the change by phone on Wednesday and did not agree with it.
He said 7-Eleven had been trying to create a story about fraud within the company to justify low wages paid to workers, but had provided no evidence to back those claims despite his repeated requests.
The fraud claims were being generated to discredit the work of the wages panel, he said.
Through the panel's work about 400 claims have been paid out, at about $35,000 per employee, but more than 2000 claims remain and that number may grow.
Prof Fels said the total bill could be up to $100 million, but 7-Eleven had been pressing for a "really high legal standard of proof" from claimants.
To this day, Prof Fels said, there was retaliation, intimidation and threats from franchisees against the employees.