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Refugee workers allegedly underpaid $200ok

Five refugees have allegedly been underpaid almost $200,000 by a recycling company in Melbourne.

The Fair Work Ombusdman has launched legal action against Polytrade, accused of withholding $194,249 from workers sorting waste at its Hallam and Dandenong sites between February 2018 and October 2019.

The refugees were on temporary visas at the time and had applied for permanent protection visas after arriving from southern Asia.

They did not speak much English and were vulnerable, Fair Work said on Thursday.

The company, its labour provider Polytrade Employment Services, and owners Man Sang Chen and Pui Shan Ho, are being taken to the Federal Court.

Workers were paid a $22 hourly flat rate, meaning they were underpaid for casual, night and shift work loadings as well as weekend and public holiday penalty rates, Fair Work alleged.

It also claimed Polytrade breached workplace laws including around superannuation payments, and record keeping and pay slips.

Fair Work said the money had since been repaid.

A case is due in court for a directions hearing at a later date.

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