26 Nov 2007

Cook Islanders subjected to slave labour in Australia, receive compensation

8:10 pm on 26 November 2007

Two Cook Islands workers subjected to years of violence and slave labour conditions in Australia have been awarded around 160 thousand US dollars in compensation.

Sydney man Manuel Puruto and his wife were given the directive by Australia's Chief Industrial Magistrates Court.

The Court heard teenagers Sam Kautai and Ngatokorima Kainuku worked up to fifteen hours a day for as little as eight US dollars a week.

Mr Kautai told the court he was regularly beaten by his employer, and that an attack with a claw hammer left him blind in one eye.

Australia's main construction union brought the case on behalf of the employees.

Its spokesman, Tim Vollmer, says it's an indictment of Australia's immigration system.

"These young workers were recruited, brought to Australia and massively exploited and at no point did they speak to anyone from immigration, at no point were they given any assistance or told of their rights, and at no point did anyone check that they weren't being abused.'"

Tim Vollmer says the pair were hired in the Cook Islands.

Manuel Puruto denied the charges, saying the men never worked for his company.

He has already been convicted of assaulting one of his workers, and is due to be sentenced this week.