A Darwin computer company was today ordered to pay a penalty of $430,000 to the Commonwealth Government for breaches of sponsorship obligations regarding three foreign 457 visa holders.
The company, Hallmark Computer Pty. Ltd., was also ordered to pay more than $83,000 in restitution to the workers and the company’s sole director and shareholder Ashok Alexander was order to pay a personal penalty of $86,000.
The Federal Court found the company and its owner had committed numerous breaches of sponsorship obligations in respect to the visa holders.
The breaches involved underpayment of the sponsored employees, illegal recovery of costs from the employees by requiring them to repay some of their monthly salary and one employee being directed to work in a different occupation than the sponsored occupation.
The court action followed an investigation by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection into the company.
The court found that the breaches involved “calculated, systematic, repeated and callous infringements of the sponsorship conditions and the rights of the employees” and were “a cynical misuse and exploitation” of the company’s position.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the Turnbull Government had no sympathy for those who abuse the migration program and disregard laws that are aimed at protecting both Australian and foreign workers.
He said the judgement showed the consequences of underpaying sponsored employees are very significant.
“Employers who do not adhere to the sponsorship obligations risk fines and penalties, administrative sanctions through to criminal penalties ordered by the Federal Court,” Mr Dutton said.
“The 457 visa program is designed to help businesses recruit skilled workers from overseas where there are genuine skills shortages locally.
“It is not a means to exploit foreign workers or bring in workers on a visa when local workers can fill vacant positions.
“Measures in the 457 program are intended to protect overseas skilled workers from exploitation by ensuring they are paid the equivalent Australian market wages and conditions as local workers.”
Mr Dutton said the former Labor Government did little during its six years in power to protect workers in Australia and actually cut funding to agencies which oversight worker entitlements.
Labor cut the staffing of the Fair Work Ombudsman from 900 in 2009-10 to 723 in 2013 when Bill Shorten was the responsible Minister.
“This Government has established a range of measures to protect workers and bring to justice those that abuse migration laws including Taskforce Cadena to significantly increase the ability to investigate alleged abuses of the visa system,” Mr Dutton said.
Note - This media release was published on 18 July 2016, after Australian Government caretaker arrangements had ceased.