Interview: Machine Man
Unions: Testing Times
Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
Unions: Badge of Honour
National Focus: Noel's World
Economics: Safe Refuge
International: Global Abuse
History: The Honeypot
Review: Death And The Barbarians
Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
The Mouse That Roars
Justice For Victims Denied
Labor Council of NSW
Freespirit Haunts Internet
By Jim Marr
That's right, in the wake of exposures from Perth, including "slave labour" claims, Freespirit's net presence has been reduced to zip, bugger all and, not a lot.
Look them up for yourselves. The footprints of the labour hire-cum-immigration outfit are all over cycberspace but, apparently, they've been cut off at the ankles.
This is what the world's leading search engine, Google, returned on Thursday, May 6, a fortnight after FreeSpirit was first associated with the South African tradesmen scam ...
Our site is currently undergoing maintenance.
Can companies who hire on working visas sponsor immigrants ...
THE PAGE CAN NOT BE FOUND
GUIDE TO AUSTRALIAN VISAS
Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has approved FreeSpirit as a pre-qualifited business sponsor ...
THE PAGE CANNOT BE FOUND
WORK IN AUSTRALIA
... FreeSpirit assists all eligible travellers ...
NO WEB SITE IS CONFIGURED AT THIS ADDRESS
AUSTRALIAN WORKING VISAS
... freespirit can assist in arranging an ...
NO WEB SITE CONFIGURED AT THIS ADDRESS
And, on it goes.
Industry insiders say this is not the FreeSpirit way. Far from a meek, demure operation, they are aggressive when it comes to the lucrative business of putting foreign residents into Australian jobs.
Which takes us back to Perth, and AMWU revelations that the company was donkey deep in a scheme that saw at least 25 South African tradesmen earning as little as one third of going rates in WA.
FreeSpirit, the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Pretoria-based Australian Business Associates were named by imported workers as ringleaders in the plan that brought them to Australia.
Representatives of the workers said they answered adverts placed in Johannesburg newspapers for qualified tradesmen. When they arrived they were taken to the Perth office of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and required to sign pages of contracts.
Then, under the Freespirit banner, they were farmed out to sites all across the state where promises of $40 to $80K a year started to look rubbery, at best.
In fact, after a string of deductions, the pipe fitters, welders and boilermakers found themselves working for what amounted to between $11 and $14 an hour.
One boilermaker, at Port Hedland, said he was getting $13.40 an hour, after deductions, alongside workmates on $44 an hour union-negotiated agreements.
When another boilermaker went public about his predicament he was sacked from a Perth engineering shop the following day.
It revived memories of Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock threatening a South African diplomat, last year, after she alleged some Australian employers were using "slave labour" from her homeland.
The South Africans said they were warned, in the Republic and on arrival in Australia, that if they joined trade unions they would be deported.
The 25 tradesmen in WA have taken the risk and signed up with the AMWU which is battling on their behalves. When Workers Online went to press, not one of the companies involved in the scam had agreed to discuss the situation with the immigrants or their representatives.
Which may or, indeed, may not have something to do with Freespirit's disappearance from cyberspace.
Either way, the AMWU argues that Freespirit, and companies like it, are helping the Federal Government undercut wages right around the continent.
When it came to this week's Tony Award nomination, Freespirit's silence spoke volumes.
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