WA Shipbuilding company Austal severely exploits Filipino workers

admin O'Sullivan

Major shipbuilding company Austal in Western Australia is severely exploiting a group of workers that it brought over from the Philippines to undertake electrical and other work on its ships.

The group of about 30 Filipinos are working ten hours days, Monday to Thursday for just $90 a day with no superannuation – that’s half what a 4th year apprentice makes.

There is also no paid overtime if workers are asked to work on Fridays and weekends, meaning they work for free.

To make matters worse, Austal has recently been awarded a $350 million dollar defence contract, so the company is profiting even more from ripping its workers off.

Austal have said these workers are here for training purposes and are only onsite to observe how tasks are done, but they’re lying. An employment letter confirms some of them are carrying out electrical work, even though they don’t hold a valid electrical license in Australia.

The workers aren’t even getting payslips; their wages are paid into overseas banks which means they also incur a $7 international transaction fee each time they make a transaction.

The Filipino employees are on temporary work visas sub-class 400 and must be paid under the applicable award or agreement of the host company. This visa type is for workers who have highly specialised skills, knowledge or experience that can’t reasonably be found in Australia – but this is a complete sham. Austal sacked 30 local workers to bring in these Filipino workers on far less than minimum wage.

The workers signed an employment contract from Austal Philippines in relation to their employment at Austal Henderson and Naval Base in Australia but once they arrived in Australia, they were forced to sign a new contract with completely different conditions.

Austal also provides accommodation and transport to and from work. When the workers are not working they are left at their accommodation without any transport.

ETU State Secretary of WA, Peter Carter said:

“Austal’s treatment of these Filipino workers is modern day slavery and it has to stop. Austal has brought these workers over specifically to exploit them while kicking local workers off jobs.”

“This is pure wage theft. These guys are doing qualified electrical work for $9 or less an hour because Austal don’t want to pay local workers a fair wage. We demand local jobs for local workers with decent pay and conditions.”

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks said:

“The fact that this company has been awarded a $350M government contract and has then decided to undercut local workers is appalling. Austal is ripping off the Filipino workers, local workers and the Australian economy all at once. We demand for the exploitation of overseas workers to cease.”

Austal have shown time after time that they are willing to exploit workers so the ETU is campaigning to get a seat at the table to negotiate good wages, secure employment, industry safety and recognised, formal, transferrable skills for Austal workers.

We’ll continue to meet with Austal workers to build democracy and power on the ground and educate them about their rights.

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