||Issue No. 186||11 July 2003|
Beyond the Possible
Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
Industrial: Just Doing It
Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Bad Boss: In the Pooh
Unions: National Focus
Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Technology: Dean for President
International: Rangoon Rumble
Education: Blackboard Jungle
Review: From Weakness to Strength
The Locker Room
Ruddock Urged to Block Immigration Scam
Reg Bartley, the lawyer who exposed immigration rorts at Manly eatery Ribs and Rumps, has written to Ruddock urging him to write meaningful sanctions into regulations that allow companies to import guest labour.
Bartley tells the Minister his three Ribs and Rumps clients were paid $150 each from the till, despite their employer having told Immigration, in writing, that they had skills unavailable in Australia and would each receive annual salaries of $49,700. When they sought wages they had been promised, Bartley says, they had to resign and were subsequently sent home because that situation put them in breach of visa conditions.
"It was a dreadful ending for three people who had worked hard in Australia for four years, been excellent citizens and done nothing wrong," Bartley says.
Bartley says that while Government has established minimum wages in regulation, neither it nor any department does anything to enforce it.
If lawyers or trade unions act to try and ensure immigrants on controversial 456 (short term) or 457 visas are paid correctly, they are invariably sacked or forced to resign. Bartley says the only sanction enforced by Government officials is revocation of the visa which effectively penalises the ripped-off worker, rather than the errant employer.
His concern relects that repeatedly raised by CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, who argues that Government is turning a deliberate blind eye to illegal workers as part of its campaign to undermine Australian wages and conditions.
The CFMEU has taken to muscling employers into back-paying arrears to guest workers around Sydney, rather than going through official channels because of the danger of double jeopardy.
While dozens of documented cases in the hospitality and construction industries have failed to move the Minister, Workers Online understands a couple of extraordinary cases, raising allegations of rorting by religious employers, are being prepared for the courts.
One involves a Hindu a priest and the other, a Jewish rabbi, both brought to Sydney under guest labour conditions.
Bartley suggests the increasing and systematic exploitation of guest labour evident under the current system, could be addressed relatively simply if Government had the will. The following administrative changes are reccommended in his letter to Ruddock ...
- that provision be made to enforce payment of the salary provided for by Ministerial Notice
- that action be taken to enforce salaries provide for by regulation
- that all workers on 456 or 457 visas be personally notified by the Department of their salary entitlements
- that DIMIA inspectors, checking the operation of guest labour visas, do more than just inspect the passports of employees
- that methods of compliance be revamped to actually check the remuneration of guest workers
- that sponsoring employers be required to lodge a "substantial" bond or deposit to ensure their compliance
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