The employment practices employed by Baiada, which produces the Lilydale Select and Steggles brands for Woolworths, Coles, IGA, Aldi, McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Red Rooster, Nando’s and Subway, are the subject of a scathing report by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).
The report found that young workers are forced to work up to 18 hours a day for as little as $11.50 per hour while living in overcrowded slum accommodation as part of the industrial-scale chicken supply chain.
Released today, the report follows a three-year campaign by the FWO targeting the company which, the watchdog claims, has failed to provide any meaningful help including failure to provide accurate contact details for contractors, lengthy delays in providing requested records and refusing Fair Work Inspectors access to work sites, along with the failure of contractors to update business registration records in contravention of (corporations law) presented challenges in contacting directors and serving notices issues by the Fair Work Inspectors under the (Fair Work) Act.
During the course of the Inquiry, four of the six principal contractors and 17 other sub-contractors ceased trading.
One day before the director of two companies was due to meet Fair Work inspectors, he sent an email advising that his two entities were being liquidated. The matter is being referred to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).
(The Fair Work Ombudsman is now participating in a whole-of-government approach to combat illegal phoenix activity. The Phoenix Taskforce includes 21 agencies, and the key purposes are to help protect the public finances of Australia by identifying, designing and implementing cross agency strategies to mitigate and deter fraudulent phoenix activity; coordinate the enforcement of state and federal laws against egregious fraudulent phoenix activity; enable the effective sharing of information, knowledge and experience across taskforce agencies; support the reform of administrative practice, policy and where applicable, recommend legislative changes; promote community awareness and education as a means of increasing voluntary compliance and community confidence.)
In summary, the Inquiry found:
- Non-compliance with a range of Commonwealth workplace laws,
- Very poor, or no governance arrangements, by all parties in the various labour supply chains,
- Exploitation of a labour pool comprised predominantly of overseas workers in Australia on the 417 working holiday visa.
Exploitation included significant underpayments, extremely long hours of work, high rents for overcrowded and unsafe worker accommodation, discrimination and misclassification of employees as contractors.
During the course of its Inquiry, Fair Work inspectors consulted with stakeholders including the AMIEU, Local Government, the NSW Police, the Australian Tax Office (ATO), the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), labour-hire providers and hostel owners.