Monday, 29 October 2012

Locals paid $4 an hour at Nauruan detention centre

NAURUANS recruited to work at Australia's reopened detention centre in the Pacific are being paid as little as $4 an hour, up to 10 times less than the Australian citizens working alongside them in kitchens, as guards, cleaners and as maintenance and office workers. 
Last month, Julia Gillard was critical of billionaire Gina Rinehart's suggestion Australians must compete with Africans prepared to work for $2 a day, saying it was "not the Australian way to toss people $2, to toss them a gold coin, and them ask them to work for a day".

But it has emerged that some residents of Nauru, the republic where more than 25 per cent of the population were assessed as living below the poverty line in 2006, are not happy that their people are being paid at a different rate to Australians by a contractor engaged by the Gillard government.

Resident Clint Deidenang acknowledges that $4 an hour is not a low wage in Nauru, but says the pay rates for the estimated 70 indigenous Nauruans employed by Transfield Services are much less than they first thought they would receive when they were recruited by the logistics and maintenance company. Mr Deidenang said there were high hopes and much excitement last month when Transfield representatives came to the Nauru Aussie Rules grand final to hand out flyers about work opportunities at the new detention centre.

"People quit their jobs to work for the detention centre because they thought it would be a lot of money for their family," Mr Deidenang said. "It turned out to be not very different and much less than the Australians get."

The Australian has been told the locals' rates of pay range from between $4 and $10 an hour.

By comparison, Australian detention centre workers employed by subcontractor Wilson Security for Transfield Services on Nauru are believed to earn about $40 an hour including allowances. Detention centre workers employed at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre by subcontractor MSS are paid $38 an hour including meal allowances.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship yesterday defended Transfield Services, which told The Australian it was unable to comment under the terms of its agreement with the government.

"Transfield, as with all service providers, is required to ensure its staff are paid in accordance with relevant regulations, awards and conditions," a departmental spokesman said. "It's not appropriate for the department to go into detail about individual salaries or the pay and conditions except to say that the department is satisfied that Transfield is meeting its contractual obligations in relation to all of its staff."

Mr Deidenang, who works for a Nauruan construction company, said his people were paid more when the detention centre was run by the International Organisation for Migration during the Howard government. "My twin cousins were both working for them as lifeguards earning a monthly pay of $1600," he said. 
"Nauruans will never ever forget that glorious day."

Yesterday a spokesman for the IOM said: "We feel we paid appropriate market rates after consultation with the government and our own research."

A spokesman for the Nauruan government, Rod Henshaw, believed different rates of pay applied when the detention centre was open under the Howard government but the $4 an hour some were now earning was equivalent to what a senior public servant earned in Nauru.

There were other benefits from negotiations with Transfield, Mr Henshaw said.

"One of the conditions was that where possible (and appropriate) support service organisations would employ staff from local communities and purchase goods and other services locally where possible. The rationale behind this was based on the experience last time when huge amounts of food and other products were flown in. But against that, it must be said there was very little of that in supply on Nauru in 2001 and the imports were necessary. These days the economic climate is vastly improved and therefore Nauruan private enterprises have grown accordingly."

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