||Issue No. 331||03 November 2006|
From Green House to Glass House
Interview: Common Ground
Industrial: A Low Act
Unions: The Number of the Least
Politics: The Smoking Gun
Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
Environment: Low Voltage
History: The Art of Social Justice
Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
Culture: A Forgotten Poet
Guests Share Backpay Bonanza
The public exposure of Hunan Industrial Equipment Installation and Melbourne-based Aprint was slammed by Immigration Minister Amanada Vanstone as a political stunt, but one of her government's agencies confirmed this week it had led to massive pay outs.
The Office of Workplace Services acknowledged Hunan had stumped up $650,972 for 38 ripped off guest workers, while Aprint had back paid four immigrants a total of $93,667.66.
AMWU NSW secretary, Paul Bastian, said the Hunan payout showed the extent of exploitation under the visa system and the attractions of denying work to Australians.
"Entitlements under the visa scheme are vastly inferior to Australian negotiated wages and conditions," Bastian said.
"When a company underpays its employees by $650,000 over six months, under those conditions, you can see the attraction of guest labour."
Bastian said no government agency "lifted a finger" about the rip-offs until the AMWU made them public and they could no longer be ignored.
The AMWU sprung Hunan Industrial Equipment when its project installing a press at ABC Tissues, Wetherill Park, was shut down after attracting 40 workplace safety breaches.
At the time, Bastian accused the company of "gross underpayments" and failure to pay workers compensation insurance.
ABC Tissues is having the construction job done predominantly by overseas labour. It also has an Italian company on site, using European guest workers.
WorkChoices legislation makes it illegal for union officials to get on sites using workers on 457 visas or AWAs to check compliance with Australian wages and conditions.
Workers Online understands that since being caught out, the ABC Tissues site is now surrounded by barbed wire and uses electronic personal recognition equipment to keep unwanted people at bay.
The AMWU broke the Aprint story after being contacted by desperate Chinese immigrant, Jack Zhang.
Aprint sacked Zhang, and tried to have him deported, after he completed paying it $10,000 in $200 weekly instalments, apparently a charge for giving him the job. He was immediately replaced by another "guest worker" from China.
The AMWU's action won Zhang $31,700 in backpay and three colleagues another $62,000 between them.
Meanwhile, the OWS has finally initiated action against a Canberra bar, fingered months ago by the LHMU.
The union named the Holy Grail, a favourite haunt of federal politicians, as one of a number of ACT bars and restaurants ripping off federal "guest workers".
The LHMU became involved in the case after one of its members, a Filipino, was sacked, and another foreign worker was kidnapped and driven to Sydney Airport.
The OWS this week confirmed it was seeking over $70,000 for 96 employees, including two guest workers.
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