Top bus company 'has exploited 457 workers'
Release date: 17/04/2013
ONE of the nation's highest-profile bus companies has been accused of exploiting 457 visa workers, with photographs at one outpost revealing filthy bathroom facilities and unsafe working conditions.
By: John Ferguson, The Australian
A Transport Workers Union official has taken a series of photographs at Go West's Port Hedland depot in Western Australia, which show a worker perched on the top of a bus without safety equipment.
The photographs also show a dirty old bus used for emergency accommodation and filthy and mould-covered bathroom facilities.
Go West Tours has denied that its staff are working in dangerous or unhygienic conditions and accused the TWU of unfairly singling out the organisation.
TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said the photographic evidence showed that the staff worked in unhygienic conditions and that more should be done by Go West to protect their welfare.
"The living conditions are appalling; it is something you'd actually find in a Third World country," he said.
Mr Sheldon said the failure of the company to ensure workers were properly harnessed while working on top of buses underpinned the poor safety practices on the site.
He said once the failure to properly protect the workers on bus roofs was pointed out, the measures implemented by the company worsened the situation. "In actual fact, it's even worse that it was before," he said.
The photographs show filthy toilet and shower facilities at the Port Hedland bus depot as well as outdoor cooking facilities the union claims are unhygienic.
The union has compiled a series of safety flaws it says it detected at the site, as well as "mould and general filth in showers and toilets".
Go West has denied that 457 workers were housed in a dirty old bus on the site, which the company's general manager David Haoust said was not used by the 457 workers.
While he had slept in the bus, this was only on flying visits to Port Hedland, which is the largest town in Western Australia's Pilbara.
"In terms of the photos supplied to you by the TWU, these are not where the 457 visa workers or any other worker is accommodated. They are photos of a disused motorhome that is rarely used," Mr Haoust said.
"All workers are accommodated in good-quality donga-style accommodation with ensuites and swimming pool and recreational facilities.
"As soon as we were made aware of the employee on the roof of the bus, we issued a direction to all employees about the correct procedure, which includes wearing the appropriate safety equipment and harnesses, which are located in the workshop."
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