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.
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