Filipino temporary workers claim exploitation in Australia

30 January 2006

The Philippines embassy in Australia is investigating claims that Filipino guest workers brought to Australia on skilled migration visas are being exploited by employers. The claims say that employers are demanding they work long hours for below-award wages.

The embassy is investigating several claims of abuse of imported Filipino chefs and professional staff working in restaurants and bars.

Yesterday, the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union lodged complaints on behalf of three Filipino workers for underpayment of between $7000 and $16,200 on their respective employers.

The union claims half of the 30 Filipinos who arrived six months ago to work in Canberra restaurants have reported gross underpayment for 50- to 60-hour weeks. The trained workers arrived on temporary skilled migrant visas sponsored by restaurant owners for up to four years.

Union organiser David Bibo said DIMIA rules stipulated a minimum salary level of $39,100 "to ensure overseas workers are not exploited".

But Mr Bibo said many Filipino workers were unaware that owners of prominent restaurants, including favoured political haunt The Holy Grail, were legally entitled to pay salaries of only $29,182 because the nation's capital - unlike other capital cities - qualifies as a "regional" area under the scheme and is exempt from paying the higher minimum wage.

Mr Bibo said the lower wage fell below the industry award of $30,500 and many had already been forced to pay Manila-based migration agents about $2500 to secure a job in Australia.

Two chefs, Donabella Cruz and Dario de Guzman said they paid a Manila agent $1500, with the remaining $1500 deducted from their wages.

A third worker, Louie Sales, said he paid 50,000 pesos ($1500) to secure his job in a Canberra restaurant, where he worked eight-hour, six-day weeks for about $31,000 a year.

Ms Cruz said she was promised a wage of $39,100 for a 38-hour week. When she complained about getting less than $30,000 for working up to 60-hour weeks, she was told she was being paid as a trainee.