||Issue No. 324||15 September 2006|
Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
Unions: Industrial Wasteland
International: Two Bob's Worth
Economics: National Interest
Environment: The Real Dinosaur
History: Only In Spain?
Review: Clerk Off
Broken Down and Packaged for Export
Zu Zhihong, 49, became the latest victim of Immigration Minister Amanada Vanstone's plan to cut Australian earnings, when he was deserted by Lakeside Packaging after breaking both wrists at its Campbellfield factory.
A desperate Zu Zhihong contacted the AMWU after the company marked him for deportation.
He was still thousands of dollars short of earning the $27,000 he had been slugged in Shanghai for one of the federal government's controversial Section 457 visas.
Vanstone claims "skilled immigrants" get a minimum of $41,000 a year but Zhihong's wages slips show he was receiving just $572 gross a week - a little over $29,000 a year.
His papers reveal he was contracted to work 45 hours for that money.
Zhihong began work in Australia on November 13, 2005. If he got to keep every after tax cent he earned he would have had to have worked until December, this year, just to pay off his visa.
But, on April 4, he fell five metres from a ladder and found himself in Epping Hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken right wrist.
Because he had no income and no work cover, he returned to Lakeside two days later.
"On June 30, when I was using the electric drill to drill a hole in the metal, because I had hardly any use of my right hand, I then broke my left wrist," he said in a statement.
"I was taken to Epping Hospital again where they plastered my left wrist."
He had a doctor's certificate, declaring him unfit for work until September 22, but on August 2, the company stopped his pay and on August 21 it terminated him and informed him, in writing, he would be deported within 28 days.
Under Victorian state law it is illegal to sack a person on legitimate sick leave but, under federal immigration law, 457 visa holders are deported if they do not have a sponsoring employer for 28 days.
Zhihong approached the AMWU after publicity of its support for countryman, Jack Zhiang, after he was ripped off by a Melbourne print shop.
AMWU official, Jim Reid, labelled the treatment of Section 457 workers a "national disgrace".
"How are we going to get this guy another job?" Reid asked. "When I met him, last Friday, he had a brace on one arm and a plaster on the other.
"He has to have an operation but the company has never submitted a work cover claim.
"He's stuck. He has no money, no wages, no sick leave and no work cover. His employer has washed his hands of him.
"Too many employers are ripping these workers off and the government does nothing.
"By doing nothing, it is encouraging their behaviour.
Reid said the AMWU is preparing work cover and unlawful dismissal claims for Zhihong and will try to make sure he is allowed to stay long enough to get alternative employment.
Zhihong says three countrymen, on 457 visas, are still employed at Lakeside Packaging.
Melbourne's The Age newspaper has quoted Lakeside Packaging boss, Meno Najdovski, defending the treatment of Zhihong.
Najdovski accused the Chinaman of lying, being lazy and turning up late for work.
"We've got proof there is nothing wrong with Fu," Najdovski said. "Fu should not be here, he should be back at home."
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