14 Sep 2020 Ferado

Million dollar win for exploited refugee workers after ‘most egregious’ wage theft

One of Victoria’s largest kerbside recycling companies has paid about $1 million in back-pay to more than 30 of its mainly refugee and migrant workforce after what a union says is one of Australia’s most egregious cases of wage theft.

An investigation by The Sunday Age and Sun Herald last year exposed the mistreatment of workers at Polytrade in Dandenong and Hallam after a group of Tamil refugees reported working up to seven days per week in air thick with dust from crushed glass in poorly ventilated conditions. The dust worked its way through the face protection they wore, with one former worker describing tasting blood in his mouth and nose.

Shachithanantham Sithiravelayutham received $37,000 in backpay after being underpaid at Polytrade

At least 35 workers have received significant pay-outs in recent months, according to the Australian Workers Union, with some receiving more than $60,000. Another was paid $25,000 after working at the company for just six months. The total payout so far is estimated at about $1 million, and an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman is ongoing.

The Ombudsman, which would not comment on the ongoing case, began its investigation after the AWU referred allegations to it. AWU Victorian secretary Ben Davis, who previously branded the treatment of workers at Polytrade a “national disgrace,” said the underpayments were “serious and egregious”.Advertisement

14 Sep 2020 Ferado

Afghanistan: Government blocks trade union congress again

NUAWE, the National Union of Afghanistan Workers and Employees, was due to hold its congress on 5 September but was ordered by the Justice Ministry to call it off. An earlier attempt by the organisation to hold its congress in February also met with a government ban.

The government has reneged on its pledge to unblock the organisation’s bank account and has systematically interfered in the congress preparations which were underway. It has also refused to return confiscated properties belonging to the union centre until a congress has been held. It has further failed to implement its promise to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association to cease interfering in NUAWE’s affairs.

“This is a gross violation of the rights of working people in Afghanistan to freedom of association. The government has failed to live up to its undertakings and seems determined to deprive workers of union representation. It has placed NUAWE in an impossible position, refusing to return properties to the union until a congress is held, then refusing to allow a congress to take place. We call on President Ghani to end the interference in the union’s affairs and ensure that the government meets its obligations to respect freedom of association under international law,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.