Work at Manildra Site Suspended After CFMEU Alleges 457 Visa Abuse

Twenty-nine overseas workers involved in metal construction at the Manildra site on Bolong Road, Bomaderry are being paid under-award rates and living in cramped conditions, a union has claimed.

Illawarra Mercury, by Simon Brown, 21 January 2015

According to Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union representatives Dave Kelly and Dave Curtain, there were 13 Chinese nationals and 16 Filipino nationals working on 457 visas.

Mr Kelly told the South Coast Register they were working on metal construction projects, not building construction.

“They are employed by a Chinese company called Chiatung Development Corporation,’’ he said.

“While the Filipino workers have a good command of English, the Chinese workers seem to have no English at all.”

If the information the union representatives received is accurate, the workers are being paid the equivalent of $20,000 a year for 10-11 hours’ work a day, six to seven days a week.

“Out of that they’re being charged around $13,000 per annum for board and lodging. The Chinese workers get paid annually in Chinese currency, while the Filipino workers are receiving about $A1180 a month.”

Fairfax Media visited the house in Worrigee where all the workers are staying in cramped conditions, sleeping in bunks or on mattresses on the floor. The main house has only one toilet.

“It’s a bloody shame this has been allowed to happen,” Mr Curtain said. “If we could find all this out after a two-minute visit, why couldn’t Manildra or government agencies like WorkCover NSW?”

Mr Kelly said after discussions with Chiatung’s Australian representative Alan Sinclair, all productive work on site had stopped until discussions on safety issues were completed between Mr Sinclair and the CFMEU in Wollongong on Thursday.

“There are no safety instructions or forms in Chinese for the Chinese workers,” Mr Kelly said.

“They have one translator to help out, but the workers are employed on two different sites.”

When contacted by Fairfax Media, Mr Sinclair said he was not sure what was going on onsite.

“I’m Chiatung Taiwan’s representative in Australia, but all directions and instructions to the workforce come from Chiatung Taiwan.”

He said the company had people onsite to assist in safety matters.

Mr Kelly said although the Filipino workers possessed their own contracts, the contracts for the Chinese workers were kept in China.

Under 457 visas, overseas workers must have a minimum level of English and be paid the equivalent of what an Australian worker would receive in the same occupation in the same workplace.

Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis was shocked. “I believe companies should advertise extensively in Australia before being allowed to employ anyone under a 457 visa, especially in areas like Gilmore where unemployment is relatively high.”

South Coast MP Shelley Hancock said, “If it’s true I am really concerned about the conditions for workers. This matter needs to be investigated.”

Fairfax Media has sought comment from Manildra.

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