The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has uncovered a group of 457- workers who have not been paid for 6 weeks at a Victorian building site, leaving them no alternative but to live and sleep on the floor of their boss’s office.
This comes as the Federal Government calls for more relaxed rules around the 457-visa program.
The 11 Filipino Nationals and 1 UK National, brought to Australia on 457-visas, were brought to Australia by Schneider Elevators Australasia.
“This is an appalling case of exploitation, where the Filipino workers were given no help with accommodation and then when their pay suddenly stopped six weeks ago, had nowhere to live, no shelter except sharing the floor of their employer’s office,” said AMWU Assistant Branch Secretary Craig Kelly.
“The managing director, Terence Donnelly, has claimed that he could not afford to pay his workers because his company had not yet been paid by project builders,” said Mr Kelly.
“But that’s no excuse, every employer must make adequate provision to meet their lawful obligations to their workers, on time.
“Mr Donnelly owes his workers at least $172,000, including unpaid overtime for weeks which stretched beyond 80 hours.
“This shows the cruelty of the poorly-regulated 457 visa program, these workers were brought in on a promise of lucrative wages to send back to their families but find themselves exploited, paid well below local industry standards.
“The company clearly knew there was an issue, as they allowed the workers to sleep in the office, and even cook food in a kitchenette.”
12 of the 17 workers are skilled fitters, with contracts that had lured them to Australia at their own expense on the promise of wages between $98,000 and $100,000 a year.
But the union has discovered that in reality the workers were paid much less, and at rates almost half that of Australian fitters. All wages dried up about six weeks ago.
Workers have also revealed to the union that Schneider Elevators has been secretly deducting visa charges and a range of other building industry fees from their wages.
Local employees have also been denied their wages, which the AMWU continues to persue.
The union can provide photographs of the workers’ living conditions. Workers are also available for interview.