Aussie workers' union comes to Indian's aid | india | Hindustan Times
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Aussie workers' union comes to Indian's aid

R Sethuraman was fired by his boss Ruban, also an Indian and threatened to have his visa revoked.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2006 18:24 IST

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) has threatened to go to court on behalf of an Indian who claimed that he had been sacked from his job by his employer, also an Indian, for refusing to put in 15-hour schedules in his workplace.

A report in The Age quoted Ramesh Sethuraman, 28, a chef in the Curry Lobby Restaurant here, as saying that Ruban Murugesu, the owner of the restaurant, sacked him on April 1 after the former complained about the long working hours and missed pay.

Sethuraman said that he was forced to put in 71-hour weeks at the restaurant, from 9 am to 9 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am to 9 pm Saturday, without breaks.

The report quoted AWU national secretary Bill Shorten as saying that Sethuraman was the latest victim of the federal government's workplace laws.

"The government makes it easy for people to be sacked and then they bring in guest workers who have no rights anyway," he said. "It's a recipe for disaster."

Indians, comprising professionals, other workers and students, number around 200,000 in Australia.

Shorten said that AWU would take court action to recover Sethuraman's entitlements. He also added the alleged victim would have to be sent home if he did not find work within 28 days.

Formed in 1886, AWU is a federation of state, regional and industry-based branches. It represents more than 130,000 members across Australia in a diverse range of industries. It is also the country's oldest general union.

Sethuraman, who came to Australia in 2003, said that he paid Murugesu $5,000 for sponsoring his visa. He got a salary of $500 a week till last year after which he got a hike of $100. He told the newspaper that he did not get any annual leave, shift allowances or superannuating.

He claimed that whenever he asked about his pay, his boss threatened to have his visa revoked.

He also said that he was sacked after he refused to work from 9 am to midnight during the Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne last month.

"I refused to work more than 12 hours in a day as it's really hard to work in a kitchen for more than 12 hours," Sethuraman said. "Because of my refusal to work extra hours, he got really upset and threatened again about getting my visa cancelled and take his sponsorship back."

The restaurant owner Murugesu did not return any calls, when approached.

An Immigration Department spokesman was quoted as saying that the case was being investigated.