Gull worker repaid docked wages video

ASHTEN MACDONALD

After workers were docked pay at Masterton's Night 'n Day store for drive-offs, we asked: Who should cover the cost of petrol theft?

Two petrol company bosses have ordered  service station managers to stop billing workers when customers do a runner.

One has also apologised and paid back a worker following a public outcry over the practice. 

 That follows the case of workers being docked wages at Masterton's Night 'n Day store, which operates the town's Gull service station, after customers drove off without paying.

READ MORE: Customers call for boycott

* Workers charged for drive-offs

Gull general manager Dave Bodger said in a statement: "Gull's policy is not to charge staff for drive offs that happen on their shift and we have contacted all Gull branded sites across the country to reiterate this policy and ensure that it does not happen again." 

However, Night n' Day chief executive Tony Allison said that before the incident came to light, individual franchisees operating Gull stations had been able to recover the cost of "drive-offs" as they saw fit – including docking employees.

This would now change, he said.

"I'll make sure [policy] will be we don't deduct for drive-offs."

He had personally apologised to Kerry McIvor, a worker who quit his job at Masterton Night n' Day after being docked hundreds of dollars for drive-offs and other losses. He paid McIvor back out of national office funds.

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He would not be requiring Masterton Night n' Day franchisee Nick Lucas to apologise to McIvor, he said. "I've stepped forward on behalf of all of us."

Whether Lucas had to pay back the company was yet to be decided, as an internal investigation continued. 

McIvor said Allison told him by phone a total of $422 was on its way to his bank account to cover two drive-offs and a broken printer that he was charged for. He would also be paid $300-400 holiday pay that Lucas had refused to pay when he quit. 

He was happy with the apology from Allison and Gull and the reimbursement, but would have preferred both the money and the apology to have come from Lucas.

"It feels like Nick Lucas has got off scot free... I suggested to Tony [Allison] that all his franchisees go on an ethics course." 

Lucas did not return calls this afternoon.

WIDESPREAD PRACTICE

Customers cost service stations millions by fleeing without paying, but low-paid workers appear to be bearing the brunt.

At least one other service station in the Wellington area routinely docked workers for "drive-offs", and dozens of reader comments and emails spoke of other instances.

"I asked my boss, 'How are we supposed to stop the drivers?' And he said ... 'You've got to try to do your best to stop them getting off the forecourt'," said a Hutt Valley Caltex station worker, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

He had been docked between $50 and $150 five or six times in two years. Caltex workers in Rotorua and Hamilton also said their pay had been docked.

Caltex spokesman Jeremy Clarke confirmed station owners could choose to dock staff wages for drive-offs but the company did not advocate it.

Policy on the issue would be reviewed, he said.

A customer at Paremata's Mobil station said a staff member told him he had just had to pay for a drive-off.

The store manager declined to comment and Mobil's head office could not be reached.

"If I have any drive-offs during my shift then it will come out of my pay ... I feel equally bitter about paying for the criminal activity of others," said a worker at a Christchurch station.

At Masterton's Night 'n Day, 

another of Lucas's former workers, Craig Wright, said he was also docked about $70 for two drive-offs and was not paid for many hours.

Lucas did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

A letter from him to employees in May, which encouraged them to "up-sell", explained why he did not make customers pay before filling up, to avoid drive-offs.

"Every time someone purchases just petrol from the store, we actually lose money," his letter said.

Z Energy spokesman Jonathan Hill said drive-offs cost Z, which has about 28 per cent market share, about $1 million a year, so the likely cost to the industry was around $3m.

However, workers should "absolutely not" have to pay the price and Z never docked workers for fuel theft, he said.

BP communications manager Jonty Mills said company stations did not dock workers.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said that a worker had to agree in writing to any deduction. "We intend to follow up with the employer."

It urged any employees of any business with such concerns to contact it on 0800 209020.

 - The Dominion Post

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