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News News Visa victims thrown onto street
EIGHTEEN months ago, Gong Wei and Huang Jiandong arrived in Sydney hoping to build new prosperity for their families in China.

Yesterday the two men were homeless, penniless and on the brink of deportation, the latest victims to slip through the cracks of the skilled worker visa scheme.

As the Herald highlighted last month, some employers have been recruiting vulnerable foreign workers under the 457 visa scheme and forcing them to work with substandard pay and conditions.

Gong, 32, and Huang, 37, say they are each owed more than $30,000 taken from their bank accounts by their former employer, Frank Wang. Wang says they spent their money on "girls" and are harassing him for money he does not owe them. Although the case is being investigated by Bankstown police, the Immigration Department and the Workplace Ombudsman, Gong and Huang were evicted from their home yesterday and, with no rights to stay in Australia, fear they will be sent back to China before anyone helps.

A parliamentary inquiry's report into the scheme called yesterday for a series of changes, including the introduction of a "comprehensive, confidential complaints mechanism" to allow workers to report breaches without being punished by their employers.

Huang and Gong's story started early last year. Gong, a carpenter, and Huang, a construction worker, were approached by Chen Hai Ping, their supervisor at a building site in Jiangsu province. Chen knew a man named Zhang Yin Shi, who had a relative in Australia named Frank Wang. "We were told that the boss wanted to build a house in Australia and he needed two workers," Gong says.

Wang owns Elite Marble & Granite at Condell Park, near Bankstown Airport. He sponsored Gong and Huang on 457 visas to work here for two years.

There were immediate breaches of the visa conditions. The Herald has seen the contract they signed. It offers annual wages of just 100,000 renminbi ($16,130), which would not be paid until their two years was up, an allowance of $50 a week, and $540 a month deposited into their bank accounts in China.

The 457 visas stipulate a minimum wage of $41,850, employer superannuation contributions and other entitlements that Australian workers enjoy.

But the Chinese contract gives them only two weeks' annual holiday, demands six-day weeks, and offers only $10 an hour for overtime. It says they are "unconditionally obligated" to do whatever work the employer asks.

 
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