Shipbuilding company Austal employed migrant workers on short term visas to work in Western Australia as electricians, fitters, and pipe fitters, and did not provide even minimum standards for their employees. 

They were paying these workers just $110 a day for skilled work, and no superannuation.

The ETU stepped in and publicly exposed the scandal and it was then referred to the Fair Work Commission to investigate.

Austal was forced to pay over $200K back to the workers, but received no penalties or sanctions. The government has not done any review or investigation.

We wrote to the Morrison Government weeks ago asking them how they were going to prevent the exploitation of workers in the future.

We asked Morrison:

1. What contractual or procurement protections does your Government have in place to prevent wage theft and exploitation in defence manufacturing?

2. What action has your Government taken to sanction Austal Ships for their exploitation?

3. Should no action have yet been taken, what action will your Government take to sanction Austal Ships?

We haven’t yet received a reply.

The Morrison Government knew about this exploitation but instead of taking action to protect workers, it has rewarded Austal with a fresh $124M government contract. His government is essentially rewarding wage theft with further taxpayers’ money.

ETU acting national secretary Michael Wright accused Morrison of a fondness for posing in high-vis, “but when it comes to supporting the income and job security of Australian workers or stopping visa exploitation, he is completely missing in action.”

“It is incumbent on the Federal Government to ensure taxpayers are not financing wage theft and visa exploitation. Australians have a right to expect that their government is enforcing the laws of the land, not facilitating their breach,” said Michael.

So what will stop them from doing it again?

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This article was publised on 28 April 2022.