Banned for five years
By BELINDA SCOTT
COFFS Harbour-based firm Better Signs and Promotions, which trades as Simply Better Signs, has been barred from using foreign workers for breaching immigration rules.
A spokesman for the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Citizenship said yesterday that the Department had investigated alleged abuses of the sub-class Visa 457 program and had identified that Better Signs and Promotions had breached the sponsorship undertakings for the program.
As a result it had barred the company from accessing the 457 visa program for five years.
"The Department will advise the visa holders affected by the cancellation of Better Signs and Promotions of their rights, obligations and visa options," the spokesman said.
"The Department will be generous in offering visa holders time to find a new sponsor or depart Australia."
Among the allegations that have surfaced this week is that the company was extracting repayment of air fares from Filipino workers brought in under the 457 visa scheme; was charging them high rents for accommodation in houses provided by the firm and its principals and was breaching pay and workplace safety regulations .
The spokesman for Immigration said that referrals to external agencies, namely the Workplace Ombudsman's Office, Australian Taxation Office, Workcover, the Office of Fair Trading and the Department of Community Services had also been made.
"Findings from these investigations may result in further sanctions," he said.
"The Department takes all allegations regarding abuses of the 457 visa program seriously."
Simply Better Signs company director Phil Cooper said yesterday he was stunned to learn of the decision, saying it was 'bizarre' and 'totally news' to him and he had not been advised of the decision by the Department of Immigration.
He said Immigration officials had identified minor breaches and asked him to provide documents.
"Anything they've asked us to fix, I've always put my hand up to fix it," he said.
Mr Coooper said Immigration rules and regulations were complex and 'even they (Immigration) are so vague I haven't always dotted my i's and crossed my t's'.
Better Signs and Promotions, trading as Simply Better Signs, operates out of a factory at 26 O'Keefe Drive.