About 18 months after working at a Goulburn Valley tomato farm, more than a dozen migrant workers remain thousands of dollars out of pocket.
The Fair Work Ombudsman took on the case last year after a labour-hire contractor was accused of failing to pay 13 workers thousands of dollars, but has since failed to deliver penalties.
The case was heard during a Victorian inquiry into labour-hire services last year, when Tallygaroopna farmer Frank Carmichael acted as a representative for several of the workers.
He told the inquiry the grower had hired one contractor, who has asked another contractor to find workers for him.
The second contractor was given money to source and pay the workers but never did.
Despite Mr Carmichael’s efforts to help the workers, who are originally from Africa, a Fair Work inspector opted to drop the case, citing an inability to formally serve documents requesting time and wage records.
Refusing to give up, Mr Carmichael contacted Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum.
‘‘They (the workers) have got to the point where so much time has passed they’ve given up hope,’’ Mr Carmichael said.
‘‘It’s a year ago since they set up this inquiry, and from my point of view the contracting should cease and the growers should employ people themselves.’’
Mr Drum attempted to resolve the issue through contact with Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, but hit roadblocks in his attempt to hold the contractor to account.
He said the accused individual had been able to hide from authorities due to privacy laws.
‘‘We pursued as far as we could, but we were unable to find this individual, so that’s where it was left,’’ Mr Drum said.
‘‘I find this stuff very frustrating and I think it’s a poor reflection on our legal system when people can allegedly rip someone off and the investigating authority gets hampered in their investigation by privacy laws.’’
A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson confirmed the body received multiple requests for assistance in relation to the matter, but attempts to make contact with the employer had been unsuccessful.