The Fair Work Ombudsman has alleged that workers recruited from China to dismantle a press at the former Mitsubishi site in Adelaide were paid as little as $1.90 an hour.
The workplace watchdog claims that 24 Chinese employees at the Clovelly Park site were underpaid more than $131,000 and has launched a prosecution against the Chinese-registered China Sanan Engineering Construction Corporation in the Federal Magistrates Court in Adelaide.
Fair Work Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell says it is alleged that Sanan brought the employees to Australia to assess and supervise the dismantling and removal of a press formerly used by Mitsubishi Motors Australi.
They worked on the site from October 29 2009 until the end of June 2010. Campbell says it is alleged Sanan paid the workers between 2005 and 6603 Chinese Yuan a month, or $A1.90 and $A6.75 an hour, until March.
It is alleged the workers were entitled to receive at least the Australian Federal Minimum Wage, which was $14.31 an hour at the time.
Campbell says foreign companies operating in Australia must comply with Australian workplace laws, including minimum pay rates.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman is committed to its role of enforcing Australia’s labour standards for international workers and will take decisive action against employers who seek to exploit foreign workers,” he said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Sanan committed two breaches of workplace relations laws. It faces a maximum penalty of $33,000 for each contravention.