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Construction worker exploited on site by subcontractor

Guntar,   Indonesia, 25

Name: Abdul*
Age: 35
Country of Origin: Indonesia
Visa type: 457 temporary skilled work visa

Why did Abdul come to Australia?

Abdul worked in construction in Indonesia. He didn't have a qualification but had over 15 years experience in the industry. Whilst in Jakarta, an international employment firm visited Adbul's workplace and talked about the possibility of going to work in Australia. The firm said the conditions and pay in Australia were very good.

Abdul thought this was a good opportunity to earn good money so that he could afford the best possible education for his 4 kids. It was hard for Abdul to leave his family but he thought he would do it for a couple of years and send all the money he earned home.

Abdul had an interview with the employment firm who linked him up with an Australian construction labour subcontractor. The subcontractor sponsored him to come to Australia on a 457 visa. Abdul was told that he would be working as a tradesperson on large building sites in Canberra. Abdul was told he would get weekends off, accommodation arranged and that he would be paid Australian award wages.


What happened when Abdul got to Australia?

When Abdul arrived in Australia, he was paid $250 for 6 days work per week. This is substantially below the award wage. Abdul wasn't given a safety briefing by the subcontractor and because of his limited English, he wasn't able to read signs on the building sites or understand directions from his co-workers.

Abdul lived on his boss's rural property about 30 minutes out of the city with 12 other workers, who were driven each day to work by the boss in a van. Abdul was told he could leave the property but there was no accessible public transport. $100 per week was deducted from Abdul's wages for board. As Abdul didn't have a mobile phone, he was granted 10 minutes each week to call his family from his boss's landline. The cost of these calls was also deducted from Abdul's wages.

Abdul had to do odd jobs around his boss's property on his day off. Abdul didn't refuse as he didn't want to upset his boss and was afraid of being sent home with no money for his family in Indonesia.

How does Australian law see this?

Trafficking, slavery and slavery-like conditions such as forced labour are offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

It's an offence to traffic someone to Australia by coercion, threat or deception, for the purposes of exploitation. The subcontractor appears to have deceived Abdul about his wages and conditions.

Forced labour may apply in Abdul's case. Forced labour is when a person doesn't feel free to stop working or leave their workplace because of threats, coercion or deception.

Additionally, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides that all employees get minimum pay rates and conditions.
For more information about slavery and the law, see:

'I was not given any information about working conditions and fair rates of pay in Australia. Now that I know I feel like I have been taken advantage of. Because I was staying at my boss's house I felt very isolated. There was no-one I could talk to about the problems at work.'

*Note: this is just an example and not an actual case


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