Media release

9 July 2009

Fair Work Ombudsman recoups $8000 back-pay for Goldfields couple

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered more than $8000 in back-pay for a couple who came to Australia to manage a Goldfields retail outlet.

The husband and wife 457 Visa holders moved to Western Australia last year to jointly manage the seven-day-a-week business.

Fair Work Ombudsman WA Director Leigh Quealy says the owner placed a strict limit on his wages bill.

The couple claimed this left them short-staffed and required them to each work more than 80 hours some weeks.

Mr Quealy says each was paid a flat rate of $835 per week, regardless of the number of hours they worked.

“Our inspectors were quick to investigate this matter when the couple lodged a complaint and we have secured $6000 in back-pay for the woman and $2100 for her husband,” he said.

Mr Quealy said the couple no longer worked at the business.

“Unfortunately, migrants with limited or no English skills – and little understanding of Australia’s workplace laws – are vulnerable,” he said.

“Migrant workers have basic rights and protections the same as any other worker.

“Even if they cannot read, write or speak English, it is important that migrant workers understand their workplace rights and that they know there is an Agency they can turn to if they are concerned they are not being paid properly or treated fairly.

“We recently distributed fact sheets on workplace rights to more than 1000 community organisations working with migrants throughout Australia and our website now has information translated in 23 different languages.

“Additionally, we have recently distributed community service announcements in language-of-origin to ethnic print and broadcast media outlets and conducted a campaign targeted at the 459,000 foreign students studying in Australia to help people from non-English speaking backgrounds better understand their workplace rights and the laws which protect them.”

Mr Quealy said the community and the courts had made it clear that exploitation of vulnerable workers, including the young and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, would not be tolerated.

In Adelaide earlier this year the Fair Work Ombudsman achieved a penalty of $288,000 against a cleaning company and its sole director for underpaying two vulnerable workers – an 18-year-old female and an adult male who had only recently arrived from Iraq.

Any workers worried they are not receiving their full entitlements should call the Fair Work Ombudsman Infoline on 13 13 94.

For those who need help communicating in English, a free Translating and Interpreter Service is available on 13 14 50.

Complaints can be treated confidentially and made anonymously.

Workers and employers alike can also visit for assistance.

The Fair Work Ombudsman aims to promote harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.


Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924


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Page last updated: 09 Jul 2009