The AMIEU is leading the way in the fight to stamp out dodgy labour hire practices and the exploitation of foreign workers in Australia.
The Union has provided information to the Fair Work Ombudsman and to a Federal Senate inquiry into The impact of Australia’s temporary work visa programs on the Australian labour market (follow this link for a summary of the AMIEU QLD submissions). Also providing info to the ABC’s Four Corners and 7.30 Report programs. The Union is hoping to draw community attention to the widespread exploitation of Visa workers and force the government to act by stamping out these unlawful practices and providing an even playing field for local Australian job seekers.
Employers have been shown to be using illegal practices to exploit foreign Visa workers with significant underpayments, extremely long hours of work, high rents for overcrowded and unsafe worker accommodation, discrimination and misclassification of employees as contractors.
Follow the links to the explosive Four Corners & 7.30 Report exposés.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) launched an inquiry in November 2013 into claims of widespread exploitation of workers at Baidia poultry processing plants in NSW. The inquiry gained national attention after the ABC’s Four Corners program, with the FWO releasing the findings soon after the program went to air.
A recent article in WorkforceDaily summarises the findings of the FWO’s inquiry into Baiada-
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has found workers at poultry processing company Baiada were underpaid hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the company refusing to assist the watchdog’s inquiry. Evidence showed it had taken labour hire companies’ claims of compliance with workplace laws at “face value”.
Today (June 18) FWO released the findings of its inquiry into Baiada NSW sites running since November 2013, which gained national attention after explosive claims of underpayment in Baiada’s Adelaide factory on ABC’s Four Corners program in May 2015 (WF 8/05/15).
FWO concluded employees working at Baiada NSW sites “are not being paid their lawful entitlements” and hundreds of thousands of dollars “could not be accounted for as money moved through the company’s labour supply chain”.
It found a “large amount of work was performed ‘off the books’, as amounts paid to contractors did not correspond with the number of workers and wages allegedly paid to them”.
One Baiada company paid a subcontractor $196,307 in one week, but the subcontractor paid its workers just $6,823 in that period.
The FWO found some workers were paid as little as $11.50 an hour for up to 19 hours work a day.
Workers reported that they could not get work unless they rented accommodation from a labour hire contractor, with rent unlawfully deducted from their pay. One such property housed 21 people.
The inquiry found:
• non-compliance with a range of Commonwealth workplace laws;
• very poor, or no, governance arrangements by “all parties in the various supply chains”; and
• exploitation of a labour pool comprised predominantly of overseas workers on 417 working holiday visas.
Exploitation included “significant underpayments, extremely long hours of work, high rents for overcrowded and unsafe worker accommodation, discrimination and misclassification of employees as contractors”.
FWO said Baiada had:
• refused permission to inspectors to access the factory floor to observe work practices and talk to employees about their conditions; and
• failed to provide the inquiry with any “significant or meaningful” documentation on the nature and terms of its labour hire contract arrangements.
In a further development it has been reported on the SmartCompany Website that-
The Fair Work Ombudsman has confirmed it is monitoring labour hire firm AWX and its related entities, the day after the report by the ABC’s 7.30 program detailed allegations against AWX ranging from gross underpayments to forcing young international workers to sign documents that waived their workplace rights.
A spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman told SmartCompany this morning AWX and its related entities are on the employment watchdog’s radar as is the meat processing sector, which forms “a specific part” of the ombudsman’s national inquiry into the wages and conditions of 417 working holiday visa-holders, launched in August 2014.
AWX, which supplies workers to meatworkers around the country that supply major grocery chains, has been accused of underpaying international workers on 417 working visas, including by forcing them to sign forms titled “Voluntary Agreement to Undertake Overtime”, which contained provisions to say the worker agrees to complete overtime shifts at their “normal” rate of pay.
According to the ABC 7.30 report, AWX recruits overseas workers in Mandarin and at least one worker who spoke to the program, Amy Chang, said she paid the company $300 to do a training course in Sydney before commencing work at a meatworks in regional New South Wales.
However, Chang said her training consisted of three weeks of unsupervised work for up to 11 hours a day with no pay.
Once she started work at the meatworks, Chang said she was paid less than $17 an hour and along with other AWX workers, was forced to sign the overtime form.
“Not voluntary,” an unnamed worker told 7.30.
“Just like forced you to overtime work. You don’t have a choice. You cannot say no because no choice to you. You need to signing. Otherwise you need to get home, you need to go back to your home.”
According to payslips obtained by 7.30, workers who had signed the overtime form were paid the same hourly rate of $16.86 for both normal hours of work and overtime shifts. Grant Courtney, secretary of the Northern NSW Meatworkers Union, told the program the behaviour is “illegal”.
“You can’t pay workers ordinary rates of pay for overtime,” he said.
AWX denied forcing workers to sign the forms to 7.30 and said all its workers are paid “according to our statutory requirements”.
The AMIEU is putting all Employers in the meat industry on notice, if you are willing to use dodgy labour hire firms to exploit workers in Australia we will do everything in our power to expose you!