Overseas workers dispute pay rates

02 Aug, 2017 01:59 PM
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AGD have denied any wrong doing.

A group of at least seven overseas workers claim they have been paid below minimum wages while employed at a South Western Victorian dairy farm.

The National Union of Workers (NUW) is advocating on behalf of the casual employees employed at the Woolsthorpe farm and has asked Australasian Global Dairies Pty Ltd (AGD), the company employing the workers, to start paying them in line with the award with back pay.

AGD have denied any wrong doing.

Documents seen by The Standard, including pay slips and an employment contract, show casual workers were being paid $18 an hour – below the minimum hourly rate under the relevant award – with no weekend rates or overtime.

One pay slip showed an employee was paid a flat rate of $18 an hour for working 87 hours in one fortnight.

The union said the minimum rate for casual employees was $22.86 an hour, $27.43 an hour for overtime and up to $36.58 an hour for Sunday work.

The Standard spoke to some of the dairy workers, who wished to remain anonymous. They are all from overseas and in Australia on working holiday visas.

One said they did not know how many hours of work would be expected until they started the job, and felt stuck because they did not have much money to move and find a job somewhere else.

NUW national secretary Tim Kennedy said the union had asked the company to remedy underpayments owed to workers.

"The National Union of Workers has written to AGD at their head office in Melbourne after receiving information regarding workers, travelling in Australia on working holiday visas, being paid well below the legal minimum wage,” he said.

AGD is part of Australasian Global Exports, which owns six farms in the Warrnambool region with the capability to milk 5000 cows.

Maddens Lawyers, acting for AGD, said it denied the union’s allegations.

“As a reputable employer of foreign labour, AGD takes great care to ensure strict compliance with the law,” Maddens principal Robert Cole said in an email to The Standard.

“No specific examples of any alleged breach of the Pastoral Award have been provided by the NUW despite an invitation for the union to provide information.

"The union has simply provided a copy of the award of which my client is only too well aware.

"Our client believes it is fully compliant with its award obligations.

"Upon receipt of specific allegations, our client will readily investigate the allegations and respond appropriately.”

A group of 10 workers co-signed a letter to South West Coast MP Roma Britnell asking for help.

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