Interview: Trade Secrets
Industrial: It’s About Overtime, Stupid
Unions: Full Steam Ahead
Bad Boss: The BBQ Battle Axe
Economics: Different Dimensions of Debt
History: Raking the Coals
History Special: Wherever the Necessity Exists
History Special: Learning from the Past
History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Politics: Regime Change for Saddam
International: World War
Corporate: Industrious Thinking
Review: Jack High
Culture: Duffy’s Song
Satire: A Nation of Sooks
Poetry: Mr Flexibility
The Locker Room
Month In Review
Lessons from History
State Based Organising
Gino on the Gong
The BBQ Battle Axe
By Jim Marr
Sowetans William Ndlovu and Reevis Khumalo, both 38, are looking for a Sydney restaurant operator who will respect them for their humanity as well as their undoubted culinary talents.
The pair, along with countryman Elliot Dube, were disappointed when the Chief Industrial Magistrate this week stood over their cases against Ribs and Rumps, Manly, until February on a last minute application from their employer's legal counsel.
All three are seeking more than $100,000 in back pay after receiving as little as $50 a week for their efforts in turning Ribs and Rumps into a thriving tourist strip operation.
Dube, who married an Aussie girl and moved to her home near Tamworth, is hoping for the security of a spouse's immigration visa. But Ndlovu and Khumalo are doing it tough, clinging to the Ribs and Rumps work that allows them to remain in Australia, in the face of growing employer hostility.
What they need, urgently, is another restaurateur to pick up their visa sponsorships and set them free from dependence on Diamond, himself a South African immigrant.
Reg and Ros Bartley, lawyers handling the cases pro bono, have had their work cut out keeping the pair at Manly this long.
"I have been looking for another job since I discovered this man (Diamond) is no my friend," Khumalo told Workers Online. "I do not want to stay because we no longer share or help each other.
"I work hard and I know my job but I also want to be respected."
Khumalo has enjoyed the little of Australia he has experienced and wants, eventually, to apply for citizenship.
The central problem with their set-up has been that it reduced them to little more than slaves for most of the past four years.
Paid just $50 in local currency for their first year, $100 for the second, and $150 until the Bartleys blew the legal whistle, they have been dependent on Diamond, unable to spread their wings and build independent lives.
To collect the bulk of their earnings, initially $1500 rand ($280 a month) they had to return to South Africa and pick it up from an associate of Diamond's. Repeated requests to be paid in Australia, they insist, fell on deaf ears.
When their initial Section 456 immigration visas expired they were flown to and from New Zealand, without setting foot outside Auckland International Airport.
Ndlovu flicks open his wallet to show a photo of his wife and two children, left behind in Johannesburg. He does so to illustrate his determination to see out the battle with Ribs and Rumps.
He was supposed to have flown home to spend holidays with his family but, instead, mooched around Sydney after legal advisers warned him he could find re-entry blocked if Diamond withdrew sponsorship.
His grievance is simple.
"We are making money for him which is our job but he won't pay us what he pays other people," Ndlovu says. "We are teaching the others how to grill the African way and working six days a week.
"All we want is what we are entitled to so we can move out and lead normal lives."
Since Ndlovu, Khumalo and Dube arrived in Sydney, Ribs and Rumps has thrived. On busy nights it caters for more than 500 customers.
Not only does their industrial claim raise the spectre of gross exploitation but the way they were brought to Australia highlights the Howard Government's use of immigration to undercut the wages and conditions of locals.
The former South African petrol pump attendant injured in the Lake Cargellico tragedy and spirited out of Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, Oagiles Molothane, could not read or write, raising serious questions about the validity of his paperwork.
His case was taken up by the CFMEU and resulting publicity flushed out of a scheme delivering upwards of 30 white South Africans a year to contractors working on a giant North Queensland cotton operation. They operate machinery and labour on the basis, apparently, that Australians don't have those skills.
Workers Online has become aware that five senior Immigration officials have been seconded to South Africa in recent weeks, presumably to handle more visa applications.
Reg Bartley has been frustrated in his efforts to win justice for the Ribs and Rumps trio. He says the only legal sanction against exploitation of workers in his clients' positions is termination of their visas which, obviously, have more adverse consequences for employees than employers.
That frustration grew as Ribs and Rumps sought and finally won a postponement of the current case until the New Year, putting Ndlovu and Khumalo under increased pressure.
If they can be forced out of the country, the fear goes, their wage claims will disappear with them.
Together, Ndlovu and Khumalo have nearly 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry. While both hold visas that, theoretically, allow them to ply their trades in Australia until 2006 they need new sponsors to turn that into reality.
The Bad Boss of the Year will be announced at the Labor Council Executive Dinner on Decmber 20
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