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Offshore Alliance exposes Danish multinational trafficking Filipino workers into Australia

An article from February 28, 2011, published on the Australian Workers' Union (

"Filipino workers are being trafficked into Australia to work on the North West Gas Shelf off Western Australia.

“They are paid near slave labour rates by a Danish multinational who has some of these workers earning less than $3 per hour, compared with our members on the same vessel who are earning average annual salaries of $132,000,” Paul Howes AWU National Secretary said today.

Teenage McDonald's workers get paid more

“ Teenage McDonald’s workers would be paid more than these Filipino gas field workers.

“ They’ve been  brought in from the Phillipines – under what seems very dodgy arrangements -  because of their particular skills,  working originally on the Maersk shipping company’s Nan-Hai VI, and now working on the Maersk Discover.

Concerns about mistreatment of workers whose passports not stamped as being in Australia

“ Our union delegates have checked carefully and seen the passports of these workers. They were shocked to see these workers do not have their presence in Australia stamped into the passports, even though they come in and out of Australian waters.

“ They are being trafficked. If they don’t exist as far as Australian passport authorities are concerned it is extremely easy to mistreat them.”

The Danish multinational, Maersk, is one of the world’s biggest and most profitable shipping companies, their  massive fleet can be found in ports around the world.

Govt promised to stop misuse of 456 Visa

“ More than three years ago the AWU-MUA Offshore Alliance was given clear promises by the Federal Government that the misuse of 456 Visas – meant to be used for short-term visits by business people – would not be used again to bring in guest workers who could not be covered by Australian work laws.

“ We were assured that this was a Howard-era misuse of the visa system, to undermine Australian workers’ rights, and the Immigration Department would not allow this to happen again,” Paul Howes said.

Unscrupulous bosses avoid Aussie wage rates

“ In 2008 the Workplace Ombudsman clearly stated that the Immigration Department was  wrong allowing into Australia gas field workers under the 456 Visa, which allows unscrupulous  bosses to avoid Australian wage rates.

“ We were told that in the post-Howard era the credibility of our guest worker program would be restored and this would never happen again.

Treat guest workers with respect and decency

“ Guest workers should be brought in to fill in and supplement demand for skilled work – not used to undermine Australians with cheap overseas labour,” Paul Howes warned.

 “ We’ve always accepted the need for  guest workers – but only on the basis that these workers were treated with respect and decency receiving Australian pay rates and working conditions.

“ Evidence that this is not happening simply undermines the community’s trust in the guest worker program.

“ In the wake of the floods and cyclone, and the booming resource sector, there will be new demands to use guest workers to fill in gaps .

“ If guest worker visa rorting continues there will be understandable suspicion that they are being used simply to undermine Australian working conditions.

Shut down rorters, deliver fair, transparent guest worker program

“ The Federal Government must act to shut down the rorters – and deliver a fair, transparent guest worker program which assures foreign workers the respect they deserve and equality under Australian law,” Paul Howes said.

 The AWU-MUA Offshore Alliance was approached by the Filipino workers – many of whom are scared of retribution against them and their families back in the Phillipines – asking the union to protect them, and provide them with support.

 “  A number of the Filipino workers approached our union members in the gas fields complaining they are being very badly mistreated and poorly paid,” Paul Howes said.

“ The union is standing with these workers. Our members on the Maersk Discover want the AWU-MUA Offshore Alliance to deliver justice to them.  

Australian unionists helping mistreated Filipinos buy basic luxuries

“  AWU-MUA Offshore Alliance members are angered by the treatment meted out to these workers. They’ve begun giving their Filipino work mates small amounts of money to afford basic luxuries,” Paul Howes said.

“ We will not stand by and allow cheap labour to be trafficked in and out of Australia so that a profitable Danish multinational can increase their profits on the back of Asian workers.”

These workers were hired as if they were working in Manila not Australia, by  a company in Makati City in the Phillippines,  specialising in finding skilled workers for oil fields and the maritime industry. The contract they signed indicated they were employed by a Hong Kong based firm called Pocomwell Limited."

Link to the article

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