The Federal Court will next week hear allegations that foreign workers were paid less than $3 an hour to work on oil rigs off the WA coast.
According to documents filed in the Federal Court, the Fair Work Ombudsman has alleged Hong Kong-based Pocomwell, and Philippines-based Supply Oilfield Services are responsible for underpaying the workers.
Documents claim the Filipino nationals were brought in under a 456 visa, and while rig operator Maersk Drilling Australia paid a recruiter $400 a day for the employees, the workers themselves were paid much less.
In total the Filipino workers were paid $US900 a month for around 84 hours work a week.
In court defendants argued they did not have to pay the workers local wages because the rigs were not connected to Australia.
“The two oil rigs upon which the painters worked have no real and substantial connection with Australia and they fly the flag of foreign states and do not dock in Australia,” they said.
They also argued the employers had no “place of business, residence, or other connection” with Australia.
“It is inappropriate, vexatious, oppressive and an abuse of process to impose the terms of Australian industrial instruments upon foreign corporations and upon foreign seafarers subject to a different work environment, different labour conditions and a different legislative disciplinary regime,” they said.
In response Fair Work said because the rigs operated within Australia's exclusive economic zone, employers were required to enforce Australian pay and work conditions.
The matter has been listed for trial on April 8 in Western Australia.