RLC in the Media: Luxury Blue Mountains hotel group clawing back wages from migrant workers

Redfern Legal Centre’s employment Law solicitor Sharmilla Bargon spoke with Sun-Herald about allegations that a luxury hotel chain is exploiting migrant workers on intern visas.

Anna Patty reports for The Sun-Herald.

The Department of Home Affairs and the Fair Work Ombudsman are investigating claims a luxury Blue Mountains hotel group is underpaying and exploiting migrant workers.

The workers are reportedly being coerced into accepting cramped and expensive accommodation as a condition of employment, and asked to work unpaid overtime and submit falsified time sheets.

A 14-month investigation by The Sun-Herald alleges that the Escarpment Group, which owns a number of luxury hotels in the Blue Mountains area, forced workers on 407 Training Visas to return $480 out of their wages each week to their employer for board and meals that were not always received.

The Sun-Herald investigation claims that the compulsory room and board was automatically deducted from staff wages and was $60 more than it would cost to rent an entire house in the same Katoomba/Blackheath area.

Employees were also allegedly asked to sign time sheets that only recorded 38 hours of work per week, with 12 hours of unpaid overtime being recorded instead on a second handwritten set of time sheets and rosters.

Speaking to the Sun Herald, Sharmilla Bargon said that employers have a legal obligation to keep accurate time sheets and wage records, and this "should absolutely be recorded on the employee’s payslip".

"If this amount isn’t recorded, the employer may have contravened employment laws,” Ms Bargon said.

The Escarpment Group is currently under investigation by the Department of Home Affairs and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Read the full article here (The Sun-Herald, 7 July 2019)