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$15 a day & overcrowded accommodation: Company under FWO spotlight

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An investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has found a Taiwanese company has underpaid dozens of Chinese and Filipino workers it brought to regional NSW $873,000 and housed them in overcrowded accommodation.

Taiwanese company Chia Tung Development Corp Ltd promised to pay 13 Chinese workers $10 an hour to install animal feed mills in Bomaderry, Manildra and Narrabri, but were ultimately given a $15 a day “food allowance” for three months. The Filipino men were told they would receive $27 an hour, but subsequent deductions from their wages saw them receive a bit over $9 an hour.

The Filipino men on 457 skilled worker visas and the Chinese employees on temporary short-stay work visas were found to have worked between 9-11 hours a day for six days a week, all the while being accommodated in overcrowded conditions.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said almost all 30 employees at Nowra shared a five-bedroom house, with nine people sleeping in one living room and everyone sharing one toilet.

“At Narrabri, six workers lived in the worksite office and another four lived in an onsite demountable. Again, they had access to only one toilet and kitchen,” Mr Campbell said.

13 workers were underpaid over $30,000, 10 were underpaid over $20,000, and 12 were underpaid over $10,000. Chia Tung unlawfully deducted fees for visa processing, flights, insurance, transport and food from the wages of Filipino employees.

On top of that, the FWO found that 8 workers at Narrabri had been let go without the appropriate notice.

The FWO said Chia Tung co-operated with their investigation fully and agreed to the terms of an Enforceable Undertaking, which, among other things, will see Chia Tung donate $10,000 to the Philippine-Australian Community Services support organisation, make written apologies to the workers, and implement a workplace relations training program for its managers.

“Overseas workers are often vulnerable because of a lack of awareness of their workplace rights and language barriers, so we place a high priority on ensuring their workplace rights are protected,” Mr Campbell said.

“Successful compliance outcomes such as this also help to ensure a level playing field for employers who are doing the right thing and complying with their obligations.”

Mr Campbell added that one in ten requests for assistance now come from visa-holders, calling it a trend of great concern.