The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched a prosecution against three companies and one company director over more than $120,000 in alleged underpayments of four Filipino nationals who worked on oil rigs off Western Australia.
Facing court are:
In prosecution documents lodged in the Federal Court in Perth, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the three companies and Mr Civiello were involved in underpaying four Filipino workers a total of $127,425.
It is alleged the underpayments occurred when the four men were working as specialist marine painters on two North West Shelf oil rigs between July, 2009 and March, 2011. The two oil rigs were operated by international shipping company Maersk.
It is alleged the men, who were in Australia on sub–class 456 visas, worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week but were paid only US$900 per month. However, it is alleged that because the oil rigs were in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the men were entitled to be paid the minimum wage rates, allowances, overtime rates and weekend and public holiday rates applicable in Australia.
It is alleged the failure to pay these rates resulted in the men being underpaid amounts ranging from $25,733 to $37,537.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says it is alleged the three companies and Mr Civiello were involved in 11 breaches of workplace law. The three companies each face maximum penalties of $33,000 per breach and Mr Civiello faces maximum penalties of $6600 per breach.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for Pocomwell to rectify the alleged underpayments. A directions hearing is listed for August 12.
Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 131394 or visit www.fairwork.gov.au. An interpreter service is available on 131450. Nicholas Wilson, Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman, was appointed to the position by the Governor–General for a five year term commencing in July 2009. His statutory position is independent of Government.
Maritime Union of Australia–Australian Workers’ Union – Offshore Union Alliance Communications Unit — 28 June 2011
The MUA joins with the AWU to welcome the decision by the Fair Work Ombudsman to prosecute three companies, and one company director, over more than $120,000 in alleged underpayments of four Filipino nationals who worked on oil rigs off Western Australia.
The AWU has been fighting for the rights of these four workers since the beginning of the year. Union activists, members of the MUA–AWU Offshore Alliance, discovered that these workers were being paid around $3 an hour.
“The sad fact for those four Filipino workers was that they were earning $900 a month for working an 84–hour week on a floating oil rig located several hundred kilometres off the coast of Western Australia in a cyclone zone," said Paul Howes, AWU National Secretary.
"It is not the first time that the union has discovered, and campaigned, to protect guest workers who were being forced to work under slave–labour style conditions on our off–shore oil and gas fields. Back in 2008 we were promised by Canberra that cowboy outfits trying to maximise their oil profits on the back of Asian guest workers would not be allowed to operate off Western Australia. We accepted those promises in good faith, only to discover that the big multinationals, three years after being promised this would never happen again, were still misusing Asian workers. Filipino and other Asian workers are now being brought in by dodgy sub–contractors, while the big brand name oil and gas multinationals wash their hands of all responsibility," Paul Howes said.
"The AWU has for a long time accepted that the huge demand for our national resources might mean the need to import some labour — if Australians were not available for the work. But we've always said that these workers must be treated with respect and decency, and able to earn the same wages Australians would expect for the job.
"After this latest incident the AWU will now sit down with the Federal Government, and major resource companies, to insist that the head contractor takes responsibility for the treatment of all workers involved in their projects — right across the labour supply chain," Paul Howes said.
"To ensure Australian community–wide support for guest worker schemes we must ensure unscrupulous employers do not simply use the program to maximize their profits, and undermine our working conditions. We must deliver respect and decency to foreign skilled workers coming to work in the resource sector. The best way is to ensure responsibility is taken right across the labour supply chain and act quickly, and decisively, to shut down scams."