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Issue #1520      28 September 2011

Sham foreign labour visas exposed

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has uncovered rorting of tourist visas among contractors engaged by Chevron to work on the $43 billion Gorgon Project in the North West shelf. The union has stopped work on the Highland Navigator, an Allseas vessel, after discovering a number of European citizens have been employed using five-day tourist visas.

The crew report for the Highland Navigator, which arrived at the Mermaid Supply Base in Dampier on September 19, shows at least four crew members have been allowed into Australia on 651 tourist visas.

The MUA also believes that the company is trying to bring in three foreign crane drivers on either 651 or 457 visas, to work on the installation of concrete mattresses. The 457 visa program does not extend to the classification of crane driver.

The MUA also understands that the European workers are being paid inferior wages and are missing out on basic entitlements such as superannuation.

The MUA uncovered evidence of visa rorting by Allseas when a meeting of union members on the Highland Navigator identified foreign crew being paid less than half the rate being paid to their Australian counterparts in the industry.

“Maritime contractors engaged by Chevron have engaged in systematic rorting of visas requirements for foreign workers,” MUA WA branch secretary Chris Cain said.

“The MUA is calling on the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, to order an immediate investigation of these rorts and take appropriate action against this apparent breach of Australia’s immigration laws and visa requirements.”

MUA deputy national secretary Mick Doleman said this was the third time in as many years that mistreatment of foreign workers on the North West shelf has been uncovered.

“It seems unscrupulous employers think they can get away with this type of conduct which is nothing short of disgraceful,” Mr Doleman said.

“There’s unimaginable profit to be made in offshore oil and gas, yet these companies want to rip off both foreign workers and Australian workers. This also raises serious questions for the Department of Immigration if this can happen.

“The Australian people want decency, transparency and job security for all workers whether they be Australian or foreign, but it seems none of these three criteria have been met in this case.”  

Next article – Disability Support Pension changes untested, unfair and unacceptable

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