27 June 2011

Companies prosecuted over Filipino workers on wrong Australia visa

Three companies and a company director are being prosecuted for allegedly underpaying four Filipino workers on Australian oil rigs that were working on the wrong Australia visa.

Australian immigration

Three companies are being prosecuted for allegedly underpaying Filipino workers working on the wrong Australia visa.

It was revealed that the unskilled marine painters from the Phillipines were working on the wrong Australia visa and were earning less than AU$3 per hour while working on a multi-billion dollar project.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking back pay for the workers and large fines for Pocomwell Limited, Supply Oilfield and Marine Personnel Services (SOS), Surveyspec and Surveyspec's sole director Thomas Civiello.

Speaking on the situation, Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said."The people were working quite extraordinary hours without breaks. In effect, 12 hours days for seven days per week pretty much continuously."

Mr Wilson says the men were paid $900 per month, well below the minimum industry rate of $660 per week.

"These payments - if in fact we can prove them to the court - are of course very, very significant for people who were foreign workers and also quite low educated lowly-paid people," he said.

The case is due in court next month and Mr Wilson stated it was likely that Australian court action can be taken against the two foreign companies (Pomcomwell Limited and SOS), saying "we are quite firm in the view that there have been breaches and they can be proven to a court."

Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes says oil companies have exploited a loophole in the system.

"[The] 456 visas are so CEOs of foreign companies can fly in and visit their Australian operations," he said.

"These workers at the very minimum should have been engaged on 457 visas.

"The offshore oil and gas companies have exploited a small loophole and I think it is time for the Government to close that loop hole."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian visa application with the Australian High Commission in London. 

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