Workers at Baiada’s chicken factory near Newcastle are claiming they’ve been underpaid, with one employee potentially owed $7,000 in backpay.
The workers concerned are supplied to the chicken processor by a labour hire company, Pham Poultry.
Both current and former employees are claiming they’ve been paid as little as half the legal minimum in cash, and with no payslips, the ABC reports.
Pham Poultry supplies foreign labour the Baiada – the umbrella company for brands including Lilydale and Steggles, and its director, Binh Nguyen, says the claims are “bullshit”, arguing staff are paid in-line with the industry award.
Casual workers in the chicken processing industry are legally entitled to around $20 an hour, but two Chinese workers, Steve and Kelly, are claiming they were paid $12.50 an hour for men and $11.50 an hour for women.
Kelly is potentially owed $7,000 in backpay for 11 weeks work.
The workers are also claiming they worked six days a week, sometimes for up to 16 hours a day.
Kelly said the workers were paid $100 to live in a house with up to 30 people, with up to 12 people sharing a room.
“It’s very dirty in the house. You have got mice, ants,” she said.
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, which earlier this year complained to Baiada about Pham Poultry, believes underpaid workers are probably owed $160,000 a month in backpay.
This isn’t the first time Baiada’s been in the headlines for less than admirable reasons. In July the ACCC found the company had misled consumers by claiming its chickens were ‘free to roam’, when really their movements were restricted to an area comparable to an A4 piece of paper.
In 2011 images supplied to the SMH from Baiada’s poultry plant in Laverton North in Victoria brought the company’s food safety standards into question, with some of the pictures showing uncovered raw chickens palced on top of plastic bags filled with chicken, as well as cockroaches in storage containers.
Not long after, workers at the plant engaged in industrial action for 13 days with a round-the-clock picket line, demanding better pay and working conditions while also putting the spotlight on the death of Sarel Singh, who was decapitated when cleaning a chicken packing machine.Image: personalmoneystore.com