Appco: The bullying and hazing inside Australia's most humiliating workplace

Appco employees participating in 'The Slug Race'. Photo / ABC
Appco employees participating in 'The Slug Race'. Photo / ABC

Sticking cigarettes up bottoms, licking underwear and cockfights.

Welcome to Australia's most humiliating workplace, where hazing and bullying is allegedly rife.

Charity muggers, known as "chuggers", from marketing giant Appco, which has raised money for Surf Life Saving Australia and the Starlight Foundation, have allegedly been forced into embarrassing acts and rituals if they aren't performing well at work.

Chamberlains Law Firm has launched a massive $85 million class action suit against Appco for employees who feel ripped off.

Appco has been accused of sham contracting, where a company hires independent contractors but treats them like employees.

According to Chamberlains Law Firm, people signed Independent Contractor Agreements but Appco would control a contractor's work life and talk about career progression as if they were employees.

Chamberlains Law Firm says because Appco treated workers that way, they were entitled to better wages and benefits. Some were allegedly getting paid as little as $2.50 an hour.

Since the class action was launched, the company's "chuggers" have revealed the hazing they had to endure if they didn't meet sales targets.

Footage shows workers competing in "The Slug Race", where they would slide along the ground on their backs.

Former employee Toby Yates told ABC it was embarrassing having to compete in this bizarre ritual.

"But if you didn't the repercussions were even worse," he said.

Appco "chuggers" would sell raffle tickets and pins and former employee Tyrone Corbett told ABC they would get 10 per cent commission on what they sold at the end of the day.

He worked in Hobart, and witnessed some of the disturbing rituals within the company, that Corbett said were created to "punish" workers who didn't perform to a high standard.

"The first road trip was my very first week working there. That was quite a scary experience simply from the behaviour that happened there," he said.

"The very first day of this week-long road trip from Hobart to Launceston the leaders had a meeting and they discussed what sort of punishment should be involved for anyone who didn't hit their daily target.

"Later that evening we all got back into the accommodation ... I saw a group of people huddling around one of these leaders who did not hit their targets.

"As it turned out, the punishment for not hitting their target was to shove a cigarette up your bottom, pull it out and then smoke it."

More footage has emerged today of employees being forced to act like chickens and participate in a cock fight.

Tyrone Corbett witnessed some obscene rituals. Photo / Facebook
Tyrone Corbett witnessed some obscene rituals. Photo / Facebook

Jacob Bywater is leading the class action against Appco and he told Fairfax Media cock fights were a weekly occurrence.

"It was every Friday morning. The idea is, like being a bird, you wrestle each other to the ground, and you have to try and hold them down for three seconds," he said.

"People would take part if they didn't hit sales targets or made an error throughout the week or they may have been late to a meeting."

Appco said in a statement it did not condone this "obscene behaviour",

"These allegations describe outrageous and completely unacceptable behaviour, which would not be tolerated by Appco Group Australia," the company's chief executive Martin Gaffney said.

"Appco would immediately sever ties with any marketing agency that encouraged bullying and harassment activities. And we would require marketing agencies to weed out any independent contractors who initiated such behaviour among fellow contractors."

Gaffney said the alleged rituals happened in 2014 and Appco Australia was only just made aware of it in the wake of the class action.

He said the company was "appalled and extremely disappointed" these actions took place.

"They are being treated extremely seriously and will inform the robust action plan Appco Australia is now putting in place."

Appco has appointed law firm Baker & McKenzie to conduct an independent investigation into bullying and harassment claims and will terminate contracts with any marketing company that endorsed the rituals.

- news.com.au

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