United Voice member and Massage Therapist, Delo Be Insugan at her new workplace

Canberra Foot and Thai workers have won their unfair termination case and been awarded financial compensation in a Fair Work Commission decision stating that their employer’s decision to terminate their employment was harsh, unjust and unfair.

United Voice fought for justice for couple Delo Be Insugan and Bart Durado – appalled at the exploitation, modern slavery and wage theft the workers were suffering in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Delo was brought to Canberra from the Philippines to work as a masseuse in the Canberra business. She was working twelve-hour days, six days a week under onerous conditions. Delo was held alongside many of the workers in a house in Belconnen.

Delo and her colleague Bart (the shop’s maintenance worker) entered into a romantic relationship whilst working for Canberra Foot and Thai Massage but the owner of the business had imposed a range of [exploitative] rules for controlling the behaviour of his workers. One of his rules was that workers could not to have relationships with others.

Any breach of the employer’s rules by employees would lead to workers on sponsored visas being deported. When the relationship was exposed to the business owner, Delo was told she would be put on a plane out of the country the next day. The couple fled the house that night.

Delo, Bart and the other workers gave evidence in the union’s case in a hearing in the Commission in March 2018. Each of these workers then had to undergo cross examination by their employer – the very person who had intimidated them during their employment.

Lyndal Ryan, United Voice ACT Branch Secretary says, “Delo Be Insugan and Bart Durado have finally had some justice handed to them in the form of a FWC decision which accepts their unfair dismissal.

“After learning about the workers’ plight United Voice took on their case and made a claim for unlawful termination on their behalf. What ensured was a long and complex series of hearings in which the employer put up as many barriers as possible to prevent the truth of their story being heard.

“The decision of the FWC has been welcomed by our members who for a long time lived in fear of their boss and suffered under the exploitative conditions. It took incredible bravery for them to come forward in the face of many threats including violence against them and their families in the Philippines, as well as immediate deportation.

“Their colleagues were also incredibly brave in the hearings. They were determined to tell the truth – not only for their own sake, but to help to ensure an end to modern slavery.

“The case does raise troubling issues with our current system. This has dragged on for years, and it has taken 12 months for a decision to be handed down. Workers should not have to fight for their rights and entitlements for so long. The rules need to change.”

Neither worker sought reinstatement. Financial compensation was awarded. Delo was awarded $29, 228.55 plus superannuation. $8,000.00 plus superannuation was awarded to Bart Durado. Their former employer has been ordered to pay within 28 days.