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Prosecutions begin over alleged labour exploi -

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ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Three companies and a company director are being prosecuted for allegedly
underpaying four Filipino workers on Australian oil rigs.

In April, Lateline revealed the unskilled marine painters were in Australia on the wrong working
visas and earning less than $3 an hour while employed on a multi-billion dollar project.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking back pay for the men and large fines for the companies and a
director for alleged breaches of Australian workplace law.

Karen Barlow reports.

KAREN BARLOW, REPORTER: These Filipino workers have been seeking back pay for five months. Working
on oil rigs next to fully paid Australians, Dos Cordilla, Zenry Peteros, Roel Flores and
Christopher Gelacio were earning less than $3 an hour.

The case is now going to court.

ZENRY PETEROS, FILIPINO WORKER: We're happy, we're happy about that, but still worrying when and
where. The question is when and where and how we can get the back pay.

KAREN BARLOW: The Fair Work Ombudsman has lodged a statement of claim in the Federal Court in Perth
alleging the four men were overworked and severely underpaid on a north-west oil rig over a
20-month period.

They're estimated to be collectively owed $127,000.

NICHOLAS WILSON, FAIR WORK OMBUDSMAN: The people were working quite extraordinary hours without
breaks, in effect 12-hour days for seven days per week, pretty much continuously.

KAREN BARLOW: They worked as marine painters and general hands around a rig operated by Danish
international Maersk for Woodside Petroleum's $14 billion Pluto gas project.

Neither Woodside nor Maersk has been cited in the Fair Work Ombudsman's action over the alleged
underpayment.

Hong Kong-based company Pocomwell Limited is being prosecuted, as are Philippines-based company
Supply Oil Field and Marine Personal Services, or SOS, West Australian-based company Survey Spec
Pty Ltd and Survey Spec's sole director, Thomas Sevillo.

NICHOLAS WILSON: These payments, if in fact we can prove them to the court, are of course very,
very significant for people who were foreign workers and also quite low-educated, lowly-paid
people.

KAREN BARLOW: Documents submitted to the court state that Pocomwell was the employer of the four
men and it authorised SOS to pay the men the low rate of $900 a month.

SOS was the agent for the employer and it provided the men to Survey Spec to work on the Maersk
rig. Maersk was paying Survey Spec $400 a day for each worker.

The Ombudsman alleges Survey Spec's managing director Tom Sevillo was encouraging the Philippines
agent, SOS, to provide the lowest possible price.

Mr Sevillo sent an email, "... requesting it provide its best price as the customer needed a good
price ...". The eventual rate of $900 a month was far off the minimum industry rate of $660 a week.

The workers were also not paid various allowances and penalty rates and had been allowed into
Australia on the wrong 456 visa.

PAUL HOWES, AUST. WORKERS' UNION: These workers, at the very minimum, should've been engaged on 457
visas.

The offshore oil and gas companies have exploited a small loophole in the law, and I think it's
time for the Government to close that loophole.

KAREN BARLOW: The Fair Work Ombudsman says it's confident about taking Australian court action
against two foreign companies and it's open to pursuing other companies should new evidence emerge.

NICHOLAS WILSON: We are quite firm in our view that there have been breaches and they can be proven
to a court.

KAREN BARLOW: Survey Spec's managing director Tom Sevillo has been sought for comment, but has been
unavailable. The case is due in court next month.

Karen Barlow, Lateline.