News/Australia: Tilers walk off job in protest over worker exploitation

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Subject: News/Australia: Tilers walk off job in protest over worker exploitation
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Mar 24 2000 - 13:00:13 EST


Tilers walk off job in protest over worker exploitation
By Natalie Davison, Industrial Reporter

SYDNEY, Feb 25 AAP - Tilers on three Sydney building sites today walked off
the job in protest at exploitation of illegal immigrants as workers.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union state secretary Andrew
Ferguson said 120 tilers had walked off over concerns illegal immigrants
were being employed and not paid proper benefits.

The union said workers' concerns about exploitation followed the death of
40-year-old Korean tiler Lee Soochul in a rock fishing accident last week.

Union spokesman Anichul Kang said Mr Lee had no superannuation or death
benefits.

Mr Lee had been employed by sub-contractor Deemah, who knew he was an
illegal immigrant, on behalf of construction giant Multiplex for eight
months, Mr Anichul said.

Under work agreements, Mr Lee should have been receiving superannuation and
long service leave and was entitled to a $35,000 death benefit, even though
he was killed away from the job.

"Maybe they knew he was an illegal immigrant but because he could not speak
English and did not know about entitlements and workers' rights they
exploited him," Mr Anichul told AAP.

"They offered him work while he was in Korea but they used him here for
cheap labour and this is not the only time."

Mr Lee has left behind a 12-year-old son and wife, who has a heart disease.

Mr Anichul said tilers this morning voted to walk off three major building
sites across Sydney until the sub-contractor paid the Lee family the proper
death benefits, and employers vowed to stop exploiting immigrants.

"These workers are being called over to Australia to work on minimum wages
and they are treated very poorly," he said.

"We have decided to stay off the job for as long as it takes for these big
multinationals to pay up and stop the exploitation."

Mr Ferguson said the use of illegal immigrants for cheap labour in the
building industry was widespread.

"We want the federal government to target companies who are deliberately
using and exploiting illegal immigrants," he said.

"We want any employer who is found with illegal immigrants, paying
sub-standard wages to be prosecuted and subject to very substantial
penalities.

"In this case the employer knew the worker was illegal and deliberately
lured them into the country as slave labour."

Mr Ferguson said representatives for Deemah had agreed to meet union
officials this afternoon to discuss the matter.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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