Darwin reseller, Hallmark Computer, has been penalised $430,000 for breaching sponsorship obligations of three 457 visa holders.
The court found that the breaches involved “calculated, systematic, repeated and callous infringements of the sponsorship conditions and the rights of the employees” and were “a cynical misuse and exploitation” of the company’s position.
Hallmark was also ordered to pay more than $83,000 in restitution to the workers and its sole director, Ashok Alexander, was also personally penalised $86,000.
The court found that the company from October 2012 to November 2014, underpaid the 457 workers and also illegal recovered costs from them by requiring them to repay some of their monthly salary. One of the employees was also being told to work a different occupation than what they were initially sponsored for.
The court action followed an investigation by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection into the company.
"I would say it was stupid of me to employ 457 and make a separate agreement outside 457 with staff. It was opportunistic in terms of staff and it was unreasonable , excessive and high handed in terms of the Government handling it," Alexander said.
"We have greatly reduced our staff numbers now and looking at our options."
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, said the judgement showed the consequences of underpaying sponsored employees are very significant.
“Employers who do not adhere to the sponsorship obligations risk fines and penalties, administrative sanctions through to criminal penalties ordered by the Federal Court,” Dutton said.
“The 457 visa program is designed to help businesses recruit skilled workers from overseas where there are genuine skills shortages locally.
“It is not a means to exploit foreign workers or bring in workers on a visa when local workers can fill vacant positions.”
“Measures in the 457 program are intended to protect overseas skilled workers from exploitation by ensuring they are paid the equivalent Australian market wages and conditions as local workers.”