Back in 2010 I wrote about the owners of the former Cape Live cafe being forced by the Fair Work Ombudsman to repay wages to illegally underpaid workers. Unfortunately, some of the exploited workers still have not been back paid their full wages and some may never receive what they earned.
One of the former workers emailed me the other day to update me about the story. The former owners and managers of the cafe have refused to pay the fines and the wages. The company in question began being wound up in May this year by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The former employee lodged a claim to the federal government’s General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) to see if he could receive some money but has learned that he am not eligible because he is not an Australian resident. GEERS is a scheme established to assist employees who have lost their employment due to the liquidation or bankruptcy of their employer and who are owed unpaid wages and leave.
Employers are advised to stay well informed of their responsibilities in relation to employees. The cash economy is commonplace in the hospitality industry, and this makes many workers vulnerable to exploitation. If it is true that GEERS does not cover non-resident workers, this is surprising and discriminatory.
I contacted GEERS on Monday night to ask for a clarification of the claim made by the employee that non-resident employees are not protected. They did not respond on Tuesday. I did some more digging on the GEERS site and, in a classic case of incompetent bureaucratic information mismanagement, eventually found the right information in the wrong place.
The FAQ page provides a link to information for employees, but when I tried to access that I got redirected to an ‘access denied’ page saying I did not have permission to access the page. Great web design and information management that. Not.
I finally found the information in the ‘how your claim will be assessed page’. Obviously. Don’t tell people until after they have applied whether they are eligible to apply. Government fucktards. It helpfully says ‘You may be eligible for GEERS assistance if you… are entitled to reside permanently in Australia.’ In other words, you have to have residency to apply.
That doesn’t seem fair. In fact, it sounds like an invitation from the government to employers to exploit foreign workers. It seems that the government is mostly powerless to properly pursue criminal capitalists. It should be able to seize their personal assets to facilitate compensating their victims.
But accountability is so out of fashion these days…