Super exploitation for unpaid brickie

WILLIAM HODGE worked for the same bricklaying company six days a week for 11 years, yet did not see a cent in superannuation.

WILLIAM HODGE worked for the same bricklaying company six days a week for 11 years, yet did not see a cent in superannuation.

The 37-year-old brickie's labourer, who claimed he was sacked last month when he raised the issue with his employer, DMW Bricklaying Services, also missed out on other entitlements including holiday and sick pay, overtime and penalty rates.

Through the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Mr Hodge, a Campbelltown father of three, claimed about $70,000 in unpaid superannuation from DMW Bricklaying Services and its director, Darren Mathew Williams, which employed him under an Australian Business Number.

An investigation in The Sydney Morning Herald revealed yesterday that low-wage construction workers were being systematically exploited on some of the state's most high-profile public projects, employed under dodgy contracts using an ABN. Billions of dollars in wages, superannuation, tax and workers' compensation are disappearing down a regulatory black hole.

For more than a month Mr Hodge picketed outside the Parramatta head office of Skyton Developments NSW Pty Ltd - because that company contracts DMW Bricklaying Services on residential apartments.

DMW Bricklaying Services has operated under four companies, three of which have been voluntarily deregistered or placed under external administration. It now operates under the company Paiva Pty Ltd.

"For a month and a half I was ringing up asking about my super and he [Mr Williams] kept trying to fob me off and he'd say I'll get to it and I said I'd sought legal advice and he basically said don't come back," Mr Hodge said.

"If I had a day off, I lost my money. I had two weeks off every Christmas and then when my children were born I stayed home for two weeks as well. I just worked and worked trying to pay off the mortgage and if I had a day off I would lose money.

"If I was hurt I would stay home [unpaid]."

Mr Williams said he was unaware he was required to pay Mr Hodge super because they had an "understanding" he would be paid a higher hourly rate in lieu of entitlements such as sick pay, holidays and super.

"I deny his [sic] is owed $70k or any amount at all," he said.

He would not say whether he ever paid workers' compensation for Mr Hodge.

On Thursday, however, the 40th day of his picket, Mr Hodge said he finally reached an agreement with Skyton and DMW for payment of an amount of superannuation, and was expecting to receive it soon.

The CFMEU NSW state secretary, Mal Tulloch, said Skyton had a legal and "moral obligation" to ensure Mr Hodge was paid his retirement money. He said almost all of Mr Hodge's work over 11 years was on Skyton projects.

One of Skyton's directors, Gus Martinez, said the company had been unfairly targeted by the CFMEU and it was DMW's responsibility to pay its workers' entitlements.

"Skyton received statutory declarations pursuant to section 127 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 from DMW that it was paying its employees correctly," Mr Martinez said.

Caught out

A Herald investigation of 15 NSW cases of so-called sham contracts in the past year reveals exploitation on high-profile projects, including the $17.2 million medical school at Nepean Hospital, the Federal Court andWollongong TAFE.

The construction union estimates up to $2.5 billion in tax revenue is lost each year from sham contracting, where workers are duped out of entitlements.

Builders accuse their contractors of signing false statutory declarations that subcontractors had been properly paid.

The union estimates there are up to 168,000 sham contracting arrangements in construction in Australia, representing up to 46 per cent of all independent contractors.

The Australian Building and Construction Commissioner is investigating sham contracting.

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