Onion pickers left in tears over stolen wages

MORE than 60 Asian workers who are owed close to a combined $200,000 are crying out for help after their contractor allegedly took off with the money.

The backpackers were working on an onion farm close to Allora, a gig they found through a Facebook page. The workers, who wish to remain unidentified for safety reasons, said they had been working for a Korean called Hyunwoo Kang and had been asking to be paid for weeks.

Hyunwoo Kang had allegedly been operating under the business names of Ozdemir Contracting Pty Ltd and Ace Fresh Harvest Pty Ltd, which according to ASIC are not registered in his name.

The backpackers are in Australia on a working holiday visa 417. A condition of their visa is working 88 days in a rural town.

The backpackers have a certain timeframe to do the work which is what gave them the incentive to keep working, with hopes they would receive their money at the end of the harvest.

Throughout the harvest the backpackers were staying at O'Mahony's Hotel in Warwick.

One of the backpackers said they had contacted their supervisors in search of the money.

"The supervisors stuck up for him, they said he was in a car accident and couldn't pay us, but we know he wasn't in an accident because a friend saw him at the coast," she said.

"No one seems to know where Hyunwoo is.

"He was very controlling and made us leave the property and go and work in Gatton. He told us if we didn't do what he said we would never get our money.

"We've all feared for our lives at some point, the supervisors told us if we told the police what was going on they would kill us."

The woman said they came to Australia in search of fun and adventure and instead found a nightmare.

"We worked very hard. We had to be ready for work at 4am every single day," she said.

"We only got one day off a week and were threatened if we got sick or slept in we would lose our jobs.

"It was very hot in the middle of the paddock. We would spend at least 12 hours every day picking with our hands and scissors."

The Daily News believes the owner of the property paid a contractor who in turn passed the money on to sub-contractor Hyunwoo Kang who has not passed money onto the workers. The woman said the experience had tainted their views of Australia.

"We know Hyunwoo isn't Australian but this is happening in Australia," she said.

"The police can't help us and Fairwork didn't seem interested. It's going to get to the stage where we are all sleeping in our cars because we will have no money left to get home."

The Daily News tried to contact Mr Kang but was unable to reach him. A supervisor for Mr Kang answered a call and said he was aware Mr Kang had the workers' money but was unsure how to contact him and didn't know where he was.



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