ABC Lateline: Class Action Suit for back-pay
Slater & Gordon investigates class action over Scientology wages claims
National law firm Slater & Gordon is investigating a possible class action against the Church of Scientology over claims the organisation has for many years underpaid its workers.
Steven Lewis, practice group leader commercial litigation, said the firm had spent the past year investigating the organisation after receiving complaints from several former Scientology members.
"We have come to the view that former Scientology members were in fact employees and there has been a policy not to pay them proper wages and entitlements," Mr Lewis said.
"This could mean they are entitled to back pay, superannuation contributions, holiday pay and overtime.
"We are now at the point where we are calling on former members who worked with the organisation since 2005 to contact us on a confidential basis to discuss possible claims against the organisation."
Mr Lewis said he was currently unable to estimate the size of a claim against the organisation or the possible number of claimants.
"What we have been told by former members is that for years the organisation exploited many of its workers by calling them volunteers despite being required to perform a range of work for little or no pay.
"Scientology is no different to any other employer in this country, it is obliged to pay wages and other entitlements under the law and the relevant award.
"This isn't about attacking beliefs, it is about being paid a fair wage for a fair day's work," Mr Lewis said.
Further details Steven Lewis 02 8267 0626
Media Contact Michael Salmon 0417 495 018
Sydney Morning Herald
September 16, 2011
The industrial umpire has told the Church of Scientology to hire an external expert to review its work practices after an 18-month probe into whether church workers were paid properly.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigation was sparked by an ABC Television Four Corners program in March 2010, which raised allegations about the mistreatment and exploitation of some of the church's most loyal members.
A number of allegations made by witnesses came outside the statutory time limit for consideration, so they could not be pursued, the ombudsman's final report released on Friday said.
Other allegations fell outside the ombudsman's jurisdiction and needed to be referred to other authorities, the report said.
The ombudsman called on the church to conduct a comprehensive audit to ensure all parts of the organisation complied with the Fair Work Act and to redress any cases where workers had been underpaid.
"It would be prudent for the Church of Scientology to proactively undertake this self-audit process at the earliest opportunity," the report said.
Read more at http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/scientology-told-to-honour-workplace-laws-20110916-1kduo.html
SScientology 'has to conform'
Sydney Morning Herald
16 September 2011, 10:35 am
THE Church of Scientology has been 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.
But 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 Fair Work Ombudsman makes no findings in respect of those allegations, but advises that if workers providing services to religious or any other organisation consider that they are being subjected to intimidation or other illegal pressure to continue to provide their labour, they should contact police.''
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The report also gives the first real insight into the finances of the Australian arm of the controversial church, founded by the American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952.
more at http://www.smh.com.au/national/church-of-scientology-has-to-conform-to-labour-laws-20110916-1kdwj.html