|Issue No 2||26 February 1999|
Union Interpreter Translates The Word “Exploit”
By HT Lee, CFMEU Construction Division
The CFMEU has used an interpreter to help uncover underpayment of Chinese construction workers on a major Sydney development.
Ten stonemasons working for a subcontractor on the $60 million George Street upgrade in Sydney's CBD have recovered more than $60,000 in wages, overtime and superannuation as a result of the intervention.
The building union was notified after State MLA John Watkins spotted the ten working without safety equipment. When he approached them, Watkins realised they were unable to speak English and called the union in.
CFMEU State Secretary Andrew Ferguson called in a Chinese-speaking member of the union to quiz the workers on their pay and conditions and found gross breaches of the award rates.
The union immediately closed the site and sought talks with the principle contractors who agreed to take over the job from the subcontractor, who ceased trading when the concerns came to light.
Ferguson says the use of workers without the English language skills to understand their rights was a major concern to the union.
"Migrant workers are often exploited by unscrupulous bosses who put the workers and the general public at risk," he said.
"This not only rips off the actual workers, it also undercuts the honest sub-contractors who are doing the right thing by their workers."
By publicising this case, particularly in the Chinese-language press, the CFMEU hopes to raise awareness of industrial rights amongst migrant workers.
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