Church of Scientology demands right to underpay workers

ReligionNewsBlog.com — The Church of Scientology in Australia has asked the Federal Government for an exemption to the Fair Work Act so they do not have to pay workers the minimum wage.

The Daily Telegraph says

In a submission to the Fair Work review, public affairs director Reverend Mary Anderson said the Church of Scientology, which believes Earth was founded 75 million years ago by an alien tyrant called Xenu, should be exempt from workplace law because it was a legitimate religion.

“There is nothing wrong with the concept ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ but it is misdirected when applied to religious volunteers whose focus is not on pay but on service to a spiritual cause,” Ms Anderson wrote. […]

Ms Anderson said making non-profit organisations pay award wages was “a violation of human rights”.

The submission disappeared from public view after it was exposed on the website Workplace Express but Ms Anderson said she did not remove it.


ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the submission read more like exploitation than religion. “The Scientologists’ submission reads like they have been putting their heads together with Australia’s employer groups, who would like nothing more than to remove workers’ basic rights and conditions in their lust for profits,” he said.

“The Fair Work Act review process should not be treated as an opportunity to air extremist and farcical viewpoints devoid of facts.

“This attitude that an employer should have complete free rein to pay and treat their staff however they want has no place in the modern Australia.”

When contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Ms Anderson said the submission was her personal one, even though it was sent on a Church of Scientology letterhead and signed “Reverend Mary Anderson, Director of Public Affairs, Church of Scientology”.

Another Scientology spokeswoman said the church had made an official submission but it was confidential.

Last September the Church of Scientology was found to be subject to Australian labour laws after an investigation into allegations it paid employees who were members of its clergy as little as $10 a week — despite the fact that the Australian branch of the organization earned more than $17 million in 2009.

At the time, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “elements of the draft report by the Fair Work Ombudsman – such as indications that allegations of slavery and human rights abuses would be referred to ”the relevant authority” for further investigation – have been omitted from the final public version. Instead the public version says: ”Some claimed the use of unconscionable tactics by the CoS designed to retain their commitment.”

The paper went on to say that

The Ombudsman dismissed submissions from the church that the Fair Work Act did not apply because it ”is a religious entity … and there isn’t any worker relationship or employer relationship”.

The Ombudsman’s statement said documents and policies examined by Fair Work inspectors ”plainly contradicted” this assertion, though it acknowledged that some of the labour provided by some of the complainants was voluntary.

The report was based on the evidence given by eight complainants who remain anonymous, and sparked by allegations raised in the Senate by Nick Xenophon, who in 2009 tabled a series of documents outlining claims of abuse by the church on its members, including forced abortion, forced labour, house arrest and using information gathered in counselling sessions to control its members’ behaviour. The church continues to deny those allegations.

The investigation found allegations made by six of the complainants fell outside the six-year statute of limitations. But the Ombudsman states investigations are continuing into allegations raised by one other, while more people have come forward since the investigation began.

One witness told the Ombudsman he joined the church at the age of 14, signing the standard billion-year contract to join the Sea Organisation, as the church’s clergy is known.

In its report the Fair Work Ombudsman has called on the Church of Scientology to hire an independent consultant to review workplace practices to ensure they comply with the award system and the Fair Work Act.

A draft version of the report said Scientology could have potentially breached laws dealing with slavery by underpaying its staff.

The cult still faces a class action suit over claims it underpaid former workers.

As elsewhere the cult is having a difficult time in Australia. A recent investigative report highlights a Scientology compound “where children are separated from their parents, and forced to work full time for no pay, and live in squalid conditions.”

Earlier this month one of the Church of Scientology’s senior international figures, Jan Eastgate, was charged for a second time with perverting the course of justice.

Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)

More About This Subject

This post was last updated: Feb. 22, 2012