Council seeks urgent meeting with IT provider amid wage theft allegations
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Council seeks urgent meeting with IT provider amid wage theft allegations

Brisbane City Council is seeking an urgent meeting with Indian technology company HCL, which provides IT services to the council, amid allegations of wage theft.

The Services Union secretary Neil Henderson said the council outsourced its IT functions to HCL in 2013, a move that cost 55 jobs within the council, but that saw savings of about $8 million over five years.

The Services Union has alleged Indian workers brought to Australia by HCL, who handles the council's IT services, have been underpaid.

The Services Union has alleged Indian workers brought to Australia by HCL, who handles the council's IT services, have been underpaid.Credit:Tanya Lake

Mr Henderson said it had now emerged the Indian workers brought to Australia by HCL had been working extraordinary hours, including no weekend or public holidays rates or overtime, equating to thousands of unpaid hours.

“Every aspect of HCL’s operations for the BCC has been based on the exploitation of these employees, who have been held over a barrel due to their reliance on special visas,” Mr Henderson said.

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“From our investigations, these employees have been threatened to be deported and replaced by other Indian workers keen enough to get to Australia to accept the low pay and long hours.”

Mr Henderson said work in particular areas that had previously been done by 14 employees had been taken over by five HCL employees.

“We say that BCC knew that corners were being cut when the contract commenced in 2013 and this was the reason for the savings,” he said.

“In local government, we have never witnessed such blatant wage theft, exploitation and discrimination in a workforce, including breaches of the National Employment Standards and Award.

“It is disgraceful that it is Australia’s largest council that seems to be complicit in this.”

A spokesman for the lord mayor said he would seek an urgent meeting with HCL following the “alarming” concerns raised by the Services Union.

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“The Lord Mayor has also called on the Services Union to provide evidence to support the allegations they have made,” the spokesman said.

“HCL is required under its contract with council to meet all lawful requirements in its operations, which includes all industrial laws.”

Opposition leader Peter Cumming described the allegations as “very disturbing”.

“This is Graham Quirk’s 7-Eleven. He sold it as a big win for ratepayers but it appears to be council-funded exploitation,” Cr Cumming said.

“Brisbane residents will be angry at allegations workers have been mistreated on their behalf.

“No wonder local workers couldn’t compete with this business model, which seems to be based on wage theft.”

Cr Cumming called on Cr Quirk to launch an immediate investigation.

Mr Henderson said the Services Union was seeking meetings with HCL and the council, and had not ruled out taking action in relation to all of these issues.

Ruth McCosker is an urban affairs reporter at the Brisbane Times, with a special interest in Brisbane City Council