Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *COMPLETE

Media coverage related to the Church of Scientology.

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Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *COMPLETE

Postby Sponge » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:41 am

EDIT: 28th Aug 2011: Confidential interim draft report is complete. Scroll down or jump here: viewtopic.php?p=405887#p405887 for an update
EDIT: 13th Sept 2011 : It all it's the fan with thee leak of the draft report. Scroll down or jump here: viewtopic.php?p=407593#p407593
EDIT: 15th Sept 2011: Class Action Law suit announcement by Slater & Gordon. Jump here: viewtopic.php?p=407799#p407799
EDIT: 16th September 2011: THE FWO FINAL REPORT. jump here: viewtopic.php?p=407920#p407920
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Fair Work Ombudsman Probing Scientology
Sydney Morning Herald via AAP 1st June 2010
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-na ... -wuvv.html
Also in...
http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/fa ... 5874128083
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/n ... 5874157313
http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/latest/732 ... ientology/

AAP

The industrial inspectorate has confirmed it is investigating the employment practices of the Church of Scientology.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson told a Senate estimates hearing it had looked into the controversial religious group but declined to give details.

It is understood opposition frontbencher Eric Abetz wrote to the ombudsman in March with the idea of an inquiry.

The inspectorate has subsequently interviewed Scientology members along the east coast of Australia to establish whether they are being properly remunerated for their church work.

Asked by independent senator Nick Xenophon if children were working within the organisation, the Fair Work Ombudsman was coy.

"We don't confirm or deny whether that is likely what they're doing," Mr Wilson told the Senate hearing.

"As a matter of policy, the assertion that ... children are underpaid in and of itself means nothing to the investigation.

"What that means in this particular investigation I don't want to say."

The Senate economics committee is expected to hear evidence from former Scientology members in late June.

It is receiving submissions into a possible public benefits test for charitable and religious groups after Senator Xenophon moved a private senator's bill in May.

He had tried unsuccessfully in March to have a Senate inquiry examine the tax-free status of religious groups, including Scientology.

The government and the opposition also used their numbers in the upper house to defeat his call for an inquiry to look at specific allegations against the church made by former Scientologists.


Now that there is relentless attention in the senate and in the media, one wonders if all those agencies who should have investigated the cult in the past are now feeling like they better listen to concerns and show some interest before people wonder why they sat and looked the other way whilst labour violations, fraud and abuses were going on.

I wonder if the ombudsman is talking to EX-scientologists in its investigation. You know, people who aren't compelled to lie and obfuscate.

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Postby Sponge » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:49 pm

VIDEO: ABC's LateLine covers this today:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJNLRS9Ap1s
For those who can't get enough volume out of their tiny laptops, here's a verion of that video with the audio track fixed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoB94_kSXr4

^Do watch this^

DIGG it: http://digg.com/world_news/Scientology_ ... ng_Workers

Article:
Scientology investigated for underpaying workers
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010 ... 916646.htm

Revised statement from the Church of Scientology
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010 ... 916644.htm



WWP thread:
http://forums.whyweprotest.net/318-sena ... uiry-67570
>>>>>>>
Dox for lurking reporters....

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/123-leaks-legal/scientology-employment-policy-letters-50307/

( direct link: MEGAUPLOAD - The leading online storage and file delivery service )

==============================

Research links for any lurking reporters:

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/249-goldbase/sea-org-legally-binding-employment-contract-42348/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/123-leaks-legal/assorted-sea-org-members-w-2-pay-statement-amounts-39100/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/299-marc-headley-v-church-scientology-international/when-some-sea-org-staff-were-paid-minimum-wage-53991/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/291-scientology-discussion/catholic-priest-wages-vs-scientology-staff-wages-48577/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/299-marc-headley-v-church-scientology-international/scientology-staff-employees-wages-40717/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/7-chit-chat/why-do-sea-org-staff-receive-w-2-forms-42350/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/7-chit-chat/smi-staff-pay-2000-2001-a-38947/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/291-scientology-discussion/minimum-wage-requirements-they-apply-churches-63949/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/291-scientology-discussion/scientologists-not-recognized-religious-workers-uk-border-agency-52752/

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/291-scientology-discussion/australian-religious-worker-visa-overview-47595/

[Edit: due to updated forum software over on WWP, the above links may no longer lead all the way to the thread in question, maybe just to the section it is in or even just the forum index page. So, you'll have to search for yourself.]

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Postby Sea Horse » Thu Jun 03, 2010 4:51 am

Don't forget this one: http://www.exposescientology.com/
We are the architects of our own lives. Design and build the life you want.

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology

Postby Sponge » Thu Mar 03, 2011 12:40 am

From TinyDancer, posting on WWP:

Senator Xenophon Questions Fair Work Ombudsman
http://forums.whyweprotest.net/threads/ ... sman.77415

The biennial senate estimates hearings took place last week in Canberra.

The estimates hearings are an opportunity for senators to question senior executives in the government departments.

Nick Xenophon took the opportunity to question the Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, about issues relating to contracts of the Church of Scientology.
The transcript became available today.

Proof Committee Hansard
SENATE
EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
ESTIMATES



Extract from transcript of 23 February 2011

Senator XENOPHON—Whilst I know you cannot discuss specific cases, there are some general principles I wanted to canvass with you. I think it was about a year ago that out of a very helpful suggestion of Senator Abetz, a number of complaints from former members of the Church of Scientology were sent through to your office. I am grateful for a very comprehensive letter I received from you that was dated 14 February. Without breaching any confidences in the investigations that are currently underway, under current legislation how does Fair Work Australia differentiate between an employee and a volunteer, and what are the protocols in place for that?

Mr Wilson—Ultimately, that is a matter of legal determination by a combination of the inspectors and our legal staff. There are principles which need to be applied about the intention to form legal relations and if there is an intention to form legal relations, what the nature is of those relations—whether it is intended to be an employment exercise or whether it is some other exercise. Clearly, it is a matter of engaging with the particular complainant and the respondent and testing through that circumstance.

Senator XENOPHON—If there is any further information to provide on notice, I would be grateful. I think you have given a good outline there, but if there is anything further that you wanted to add about any criteria that you look at.

Mr Wilson—The criteria are set out to some extent within the Fair Work Act, which—

Senator XENOPHON—We do not need to do that now. I am just conscious of it.

Mr Wilson—Yes. That contains a definition of employee and that clearly is instructive. The other thing to consider is a High Court case that I referred you to in my correspondence, which is Ermogenous v Greek Orthodox Community of SA Inc (2002) 2009 CLR 95. That case and others do set out some of the principles that would need to be considered. In some ways it is fairly rare that we need to test those principles, and clearly the cases you have indicated may require those assessments and that ultimately is a matter of the evidence of each particular complainant.

Senator XENOPHON—How does your office assess the credibility of contracts declaring that someone is a volunteer? For example, would the Church of Scientology asking its so-called volunteers to sign billion-year contracts to volunteer to work for the church, with the inclusion of a billion-year clause—it actually says a billion years—lead to your office rejecting the validity of such a contract.

Mr Wilson—We have not yet tested, and I do not know that we will test, that issue of validity with a contract. The issues that we are presently looking at are somewhat more basic. There was an allusion to that point in my correspondence to you, which was to indicate that in some but not all cases it might be—and I am yet to make my decision on these points—that they are simply not within time and therefore not capable of us investigating them in detail.

Senator XENOPHON—Time would be defined in what way? Is it a six-year statutory limit?

Mr Wilson—Correct.

Senator XENOPHON—Is that an absolute limit or is there an ability to extend time in exceptional circumstances, or if there is new material or information? Is the limit of six years a sudden-death thing or is there some ability—

Mr Wilson—My understanding of the Fair Work Act is that it is a sudden-death matter and that there is not a capacity for an inspector to bring an application to a court outside of that time.

Senator XENOPHON—There is genuine concern that in some jurisdictions with some actions you can do so if there is a mature fact. I am sorry, Mr Wilson, I did not mean to interrupt you.

Mr Wilson—It is difficult for me to answer that question without going to the precise matters which are under investigation. Ultimately, the investigation of whether a person is a volunteer or an employee is a test of a number of matters, one of which may well be the purported legal arrangement between the two. It may well be other factors as to what actually went on, and that point was to some degree made within the Greek Orthodox case that I referred to where the person was held to be an employee for the purposes of the long service leave legislation, notwithstanding that they had a religious connection to the community and a religious function within the community. It is not outside the realms of possibility that that same arrangement might occur in any other relationship between a volunteer and the organisation they are working for. It is equally possible that it not be consistent with those tests.

Senator XENOPHON—So a contract with something as ludicrous as a billion-year contract clause in it could still be deemed valid?

Mr Wilson—I do not have a view on that point and I do not think I need to have a view on that point right now. That is really all I can say about that matter.

Senator XENOPHON—But, in terms of general principles, if there is something that is patently absurd— contracts that actually say, ‘You are volunteering your services for a billion years’—it actually says ‘a billion years’—wouldn’t that set off alarm bells in terms of assessing the criteria?

Mr Wilson—That is a different question to the one that you asked. Your question was whether—

Senator XENOPHON—it would be deemed valid.

Mr Wilson—the contract would be deemed valid. That is a different question from whether or not such a term may well set off alarm bells. What Mr Ronson just indicated to me is that you look behind the contract in any arrangement, whether it be an employment arrangement, a volunteer arrangement or some other arrangement, and you look to how that is actually played out between the parties—the work that they did, the payments that were made, the controls and all the rest of it. What I have indicated to you in my correspondence is that we are still in the process of gathering information and assessing the nature of that information and that a determination will be made by me towards the end of March. You are inviting me to make decisions in advance of that and I do not think it is proper that I do that.

Senator XENOPHON—So a contract with a billion-year clause in it could or could not be valid—the decision could be either way?

Mr Wilson—I do not have a view on its validity.

Senator XENOPHON—I go to the issue of the expertise your staff have in assessing some of these claims. It is not in any way criticism; I just want to try and understand.

Mr Wilson—Sure.

Senator XENOPHON—When it comes to some of these issues, there is an issue of coercion. The question is: what expertise do your staff have in assessing whether someone has been psychologically coerced into signing a contract or accepting substandard conditions?

Mr Wilson—I will ask Mr Ronson to speak to that.

Mr Ronson—In this particular matter which I think you are referring to, the principal inspector in the investigation is someone with a psychology background, which we felt was appropriate in this particular investigation. The assisting inspectors are very experienced inspectors, and so we have ensured that they were appropriate for the nature of this investigation.

Senator XENOPHON—Apart from the expertise of the people that you referred to, are there any protocols in dealing with issues of coercion or assessing potential issues of psychological coercion?

Mr Ronson—I am confident that the inspectors who conducted this investigation were aware of extraneous issues or surrounding issues that, as you have described, may have been in place, or may not have been. They were alive to what are potential issues that are specific to this particular investigation.

Senator XENOPHON—On the issue of volunteer contracts signed by children—because I have had complaints in respect of that and met one young woman who was a minor at the time that she entered into this contract—how does your office treat so-called volunteer contracts signed by children?

Mr Ronson—Not just in this case but in other cases—and I know that it was followed in this case—it is very important that extra sensitivity is afforded and applied to those particular conversations. It is absolutely essential that parents are involved and, if that is the case, if minors have entered into contracts and their parents are aware of the nature of this investigation, that there is a level of comfort and so forth.

Senator XENOPHON—Sorry, perhaps I should clarify that: I mean if they are no longer minors but they were minors at the time they entered into this so-called volunteer contract.

Mr Ronson—Sorry, are you talking about child employment law specifically or just the nature of a conversation?

Senator XENOPHON—There is an argument as to whether it is an employment contract or, as I think the Church of Scientology says, it was simply a contract to be a volunteer. What is the policy, or how do you deal with cases, where a minor has signed such a contract to be a volunteer? What safeguards are there and what would that trigger in terms of any investigation?

Mr Ronson—There have been a number of cases where that occurs. I am confident that the training that we provide to our inspectors is sufficient to cover off what I suppose are the particular evidential difficulties that need to be tested with someone’s memory, particularly that memory as a minor, and if they are remembering what they did and signed.

Senator XENOPHON—Perhaps we are talking at cross purposes. Let us assume, again as a general principle, that from an evidentiary point of view you have the evidence that there is a contract to be a volunteer and it has been entered into by a minor. What effect would that have and what role could your office have in those cases if there is a complaint about that, even if there has been parental consent? What would happen in cases in the absence of parental consent and in cases where there is parental consent?

Mr Ronson—I think as a general proposition it is fair to say that we would be requiring greater explanation on behalf of the employer or the engager of work to account for what was going on at the time, what the intentions of the parties were. There would be a more robust questioning of what the precise nature of the intentions between the parties was.

Senator XENOPHON—But what ability does a minor have to enter into a contract? There is that threshold issue, isn’t there?

Mr Ronson—Correct. These are questions that we are dealing with on a daily basis, but in particular the investigation that you are interested in.

Senator XENOPHON—Sure. As a broader issue, Mr Ronson and Mr Wilson, about employers that drag someone in, whether they are a young adult or a minor, and say, ‘Have a bit of work experience with us,’ but in fact it is just cheap labour and it goes on for an extended period of time. I am sure that is quite a widespread thing that goes beyond this particular investigation that I am interested in.

Mr Ronson—Absolutely.

Mr Wilson—If I talk generally about our approach on that, that might flush out some of the issues. There are of course many thousands of minors who are employed quite properly and ethically. What you do find, for example, in the large fast-food chains they are very conscious of the need to make sure that there is parental consent and so on, and that is done quite properly. Equally, there are cases where we see employment having commenced without necessarily that parental consent having been given. The role that we exercise in that is to make sure that people are not exploited and that they are paid the conditions and entitlements they are entitled to. When it comes to things like work experience or other volunteer arrangements, they fall into a number of categories. There are of course the bona fide work experience and volunteer arrangements, which are quite proper and ethical. Then there are some where they are just outright exploitation of holding out jobs with no pay at the end of that work experience period. On those issues we certainly take quite a strong line and make sure that underpayments are rectified. The kind of issues that you are talking about—

Senator XENOPHONMr Wilson, just in relation to that. There must be a case where you cross this threshold where someone is at first instance doing work experience but it becomes unpaid labour, and there sometimes could be a hybrid of the two, could there not? Initially it could be properly characterised as work experience and then it turns into something else.

Mr Wilson—I will call upon Mr Campbell, who has some experience in this area.

Mr Campbell—We do observe cases where employers attempt to engage people through work experience arrangements to gain access to what you describe as free labour. Where those matters come to our attention, we look at the facts of the case and at the intentions of the party but also whether the employer has gained benefit from having that person involved in that work during that period of time. If we assess that they have, and we come to a view that there was an intention to create a relationship, and perhaps an employment relationship, then we will enforce the minimum wage that would apply to that role. That could be whether or not the person was a minor or otherwise. It would be up to ultimately a court to decide whether that individual was capable of entering into the contract that we say existed between the parties. We could argue that it did, but it would again be a court who had to decide.

Senator XENOPHON—So it is a question of degree and the facts of each case?

Mr Campbell—Yes.

Senator XENOPHON—Without referring to any specific case, if there are issues of coercion looking at the nature of the relationship between the parties, would they be relevant factors?

Mr Campbell—They would be factors that would ultimately have to lead in court to convince a judge or a court that there were certain behaviours by the employer that led to a relationship being created that may not have been the choice of the individual employee or volunteer that you refer to.

Senator XENOPHON—What happens in cases where initially it appears that there was free choice but it then becomes apparent as a result of a number of factors that that free choice is no longer there? Is that something that is taken into account?

Mr Campbell—Generally it could be and again it will go down to whether or not the individual involved received a benefit from the work of the individual. For all intents and purposes, if there is an employment relationship then we can enforce entitlements based on that view. Again, it is the case that we can put before the court and our ability to argue the facts to the court that will determine whether or not we are successful in proving that a person was an employee.

Senator XENOPHON—As a general principle, if a minor enters into a volunteer contract without theconsent of their parents, would such a contract be valid or not?

Mr Campbell—I could not provide a general principle on that because it is a volunteer arrangement.

Mr Wilson—The other distinction to be made is under the Fair Work Act; our jurisdiction obviously is in respect of employment arrangements. To take an extreme case, let’s say my daughter, who is almost 15, decided to volunteer for the local Red Cross without telling me. That might be wrong and there might beconsequences under whatever the volunteer arrangements are for that organisation. But there would not necessarily be a jurisdiction invoked for this organisation to investigate unless it was of the view that the arrangement was not that of a volunteer but instead an employment relationship.

Senator XENOPHON—Yes, it is different if it was a case of your family member being there 60 or 70 hours a week and having to work around the clock on direction and being told that they would be eternally damned or whatever if they did not keep doing it. That would change the nature of the relationship, would it not, potentially?

Mr Wilson—It might. That is the struggle of course that we have and ultimately that can only be answered by the facts of each individual case.

Senator XENOPHON—So it is a hybrid of really common law and statutory law?

Mr Wilson—It is, yes.

Senator XENOPHON—Thank you for your time.

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology

Postby Sponge » Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:54 pm

Church of Scientology faces backpay bill to former members
Melbourne Herald Sun 28th August 2011
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/church-of-scientology-faces-backpay-bill-to-former-members/story-fn7x8me2-1226123609542

IN a move that could send its Australian arm bankrupt, the controversial Church of Scientology may be forced to pay millions in backpay to former members.

The nation's workplace watchdog has received confidential statements from several former Scientology workers who claim they were underpaid, or not paid, for at least a decade.

It is understood some alleged victims told the Fair Work Ombudsman that they were paid only $2 a week for close to full-time work, and had to rely on welfare.

The Sunday Herald Sun has learnt the Ombudsman will soon release its findings after an 18-month probe.

In a statement it said: "The Fair Work Ombudsman recently provided a draft copy of its initial finding to the relevant parties for feedback and is currently considering those responses".

Laws prevent parties from discussing the contents of interim reports.

Insiders said the church had failed to pay core staff - the equivalent of paid staff in other religious organisations - for such a long time that any order for backpay could bankrupt the organisation, or it would need to be bailed out by its US arm.


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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:34 pm

Scientology: Game Over? Australia May Be About to Bankrupt Church Operations Down Under
by Tony Ortega, Village Voice 1st September 2011
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninsca ... gy_gam.php
Over the weekend, Melbourne's Herald Sun reported that the Australian government may be about to hand down a decision that will likely bankrupt Scientology in that country.

The church there has been under heavy attack in recent years, led mainly by an independent federal senator, Adelaide's Nick Xenophon, who has pushed for government investigations of Scientology after being presented with evidence of the church's abuse of staff.

And now, the Herald Sun reports, the country's "workplace watchdog" will soon release a report after an 18-month investigation into the way that Scientology's workers, particularly those in the hardcore Sea Org, are paid far less than minimum wage.

Scientology could be forced to pay millions of dollars in back pay, as well as taxes on that pay, and raise every worker to minimum wage into the future. Former chief Scientology spokesman, Mike Rinder, who himself is from Australia, says such a decision will immediately bankrupt the church there.

"It will be an utter disaster, worse than losing tax-exempt status," he says. (The Australian government has also been reviewing Scientology's tax exempt status, and a decision on that could come soon as well.)

If Scientology were hit with a bill for millions in back pay, Rinder says, they could draw from American reserves to pay it off. "They have the money to do it, but what will happen is, everybody from this point forward will have to be paid, and they cannot do that," he says.

"Too much money goes to international management, and they're buying buildings, so they can't use that money for staff. Everything else is more important. And if that happens in Australia. I promise you that will only be the first. The next place that will follow will be Europe. And then ultimately the US will catch up. Some agency in America will grow a pair and actually do something," Rinder added.

[...more in article link...]

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Don Carlo » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:06 am

CoS in Australia will just declare bankruptcy, default on the mortgaged buildings, transfer the most loyal workers to New Zealand, and fire the rest. When CoS Int'l calculates that a new New Australian Church of Scientology, paying minimum wage can't support itself, they'll try to make the rich Oz Scientologists take their courses in New Zealand or Los Angeles or even move there.

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:10 pm

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science posts about the Village Voice article:
Scientology: Game Over? Australia May Be About to Bankrupt Church Operations Down Under
http://richarddawkins.net/articles/6429 ... down-under

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Wed Sep 07, 2011 1:20 am

From the James Randi Foundation blog....
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swi ... ology.html
Galactic Overlord Xenu Strikes Scientology?
Swift
Written by James Randi
Tuesday, 06 September 2011

Hey,the news isn’t all bad. The Australian government may be about to make a decision that could bankrupt the Church of Scientology [CoS] in that country – and perhaps further. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of thieves! An Australian federal senator, Adelaide's Nick Xenophon, has made public the church's abuse of their own staff; they’re paid some A$50 a week [US$53] and have been receiving that salary for some 30 years now. The legal minimum wage there is A$590/week [US$630]… One way the church gets around this minor problem is by pretending that the staff consists of volunteers. Sure.

You see, the CoS is registered there as a South Australian charity, and thus pays no taxes. They’ve researched the tax picture all over the world and discovered that by using an Australian address for the Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc. [COSRECI] – which they did by simply choosing a suburban house – the church can have its UK and some Europe and Canadian facilities claim charity status through the COSRECI umbrella corporation, based in Adelaide. Their tax exempt status is currently under examination, and the legal definition of "charities" is also being looked into.

But all that is far less critical for the CoS than another matter. They could be required to pay millions of dollars in back pay – as well as taxes on that pay – and would have to raise every workers minimum wage into the future. Such a decision would immediately bankrupt the church there, though they could of course draw from their huge American reserves to pay for it.

Much of the CoS funds are spent on international management, and they've also been buying real estate, so they can't use that money to pay their staff. If the minimum-wage situation is applied in Australia, the next place that will follow is Europe, and perhaps, just perhaps, we here in the USA will finally catch up with the rest of the world, if we can overcome our fear of burdening any religion, no matter how puerile.

Membership in the CoS has been falling, and probably now amounts to about 40,000, internationally, so they’re pleading for parishioners in America to raise money for new facilities. Local Australian authorities still haven't done anything about COSRECI not paying taxes. The UK churches can get around paying taxes – not through their status, but by showing losses and debts each year, so there appear to be no profits on which they can be taxed.

In the U.S.A. and around the world the CoS is looked upon as a joke, of course. Their Holy Writ – and by that I mean anything that L. Ron Hubbard wrote – claims that a galactic overlord named Xenu imprisoned millions of people from all over the Milky Way in volcanoes and then had them erupt, thus freeing those souls to infect our species here on Earth. Yes, this has to be a comic-book scenario, but that’s what Scientologists actually believe! And Xenu itself – herself?, himself? – is a one-eyed gray blob of glossy sludge that looks like a spilled Slurpy made from cigarette ashes and Vaseline, and smells like a boiled vulture. (Hey, if L. Ron can make it up, so can I!)

Yes, things are looking up…!

James Randi.




Also, Beliefnet re-reports the Melbourne Herald-Sun article which originaly broke this latest update:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/09/ ... ruptcy.php

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:52 am

A Current Affair - Scientology Fair Work Scandal
9 News 13th Sept 2011
http://aca.ninemsn.com.au/investigation ... rk-scandal (includes video)
Youtube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKQ6e_PyNBo [thanks to Zhent]
It's the church of eternal controversy that revolves amid a culture of extreme secrecy, but Scientology could be about to be brought to its knees by insiders who have walked away, and revealed work practices that are raising serious questions.

Statement recieved from the Church of Scientology:

"It is inappropriate for the Church to make comment on the claims of former volunteers and religious ministers of the Church of Scientology, given that they have filed formal complaints with the Fair Work Ombudsman and that investigation is now in progress. This should be allowed to run its course.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has not handed down any findings and has requested all parties keep confidential the interim findings.

All religious work for the Church of Scientology is done by volunteers and their period of religious service helping others and engaging in community work such drug education; literacy and numeracy programs; health; human rights promotion and disaster relief is also a manifestation of their religious beliefs.

This is no different to many other charities and religions in Australia, which rely upon the generosity of their volunteer workers and ours do so freely, wishing to help their Church and community.

The Church of Scientology was declared a bona fide religion by the High Court of Australia in 1983."


Scientology needs to wordclear the terms: Volunteer and Employee.

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Don Carlo » Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:03 pm

In the US, once you receive more than, say, $200 a year, you are no longer a volunteer. You may be either an employee, if you are being ordered around, or a contractor (like a plumber, who comes and goes and has his/her own business). The rule is, are you depending on your paycheck, however small, for your necessities? (You could still be a volunteer if your $200+ is only reimbursement for, say, travel expenses).

My relative, who is a public member of CoS, has a good outside job and truly volunteers for zero pay as a Volunteer Minister. But that is quite different from org staff or Sea Org.

I repeat this point in case a rich public member testifies or claims that he or she is a volunteer and never has received a penny, and that the Australian government somehow is persuaded that staff therefore are "real" volunteers.
Last edited by Don Carlo on Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:11 pm

Hot on the heels of the above ACA report...

ABC Lateline - Fair Work Ombudsman Draft Report (2011-09-13)
ABC Lateline Broadcast 13th Sept 2011
[video + transcript] http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/ ... 317929.htm
Youtube (comments open): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDbJGg5r8hU [thanks to zhent]
Official Youtubed version (commenting off): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ6VzQk3ui0

Church of Scientology facing back-pay claims
ABC News 13th Sept 2011
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-14/church-of-scientology-facing-back-pay-claims/2897982
The Church of Scientology is facing the prospect of back-pay claims that on some estimates could run into millions of dollars.

In March last year, the ABC's Four Corners broadcast a program containing allegations of mistreatment and exploitation of some of the church's most loyal members.

The next day, the Fair Work ombudsman started an investigation into the Church of Scientology.
ABC's Lateline has obtained a draft copy of that investigation's report which shows some workers were getting paid as little as $10 a week.

The draft report contains allegations of false imprisonment and forced labour.
A former chief spokesman for the church in the United States has also told Lateline the ombudsman's report could have international ramifications.

The draft report contains explosive allegations made by former staff members of forced imprisonment and enslavement.

"The allegations ... may potentially be a breach of the provisions of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (cth) dealing with slavery," the draft report said.

[... more in article link...]



Ombudsman draft raises Scientology slavery
AAP 13th Sept 2011
http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/om ... 6136255389
http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/brea ... 6136255389
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/830 ... gy-slavery
A DRAFT report by the industrial umpire into the Church of Scientology says the group could have potentially breached laws dealing with slavery by underpaying its staff.
A final report by the Fair Work Ombudsman is due for release later this week, but the preliminary report has found some workers were paid as little as $10 a week by the church despite it earning more than $17 million in 2009.

It contains allegations of false imprisonment and forced labour.

"The allegations ... may potentially be a breach of the provisions of the Criminal Code Act 1995 dealing with slavery ... the Fair Work Ombudsman will refer the witnesses' allegations to the relevant authority for further investigation," ABC Television quoted the draft report as saying.

The church had argued that some members were not covered by the Fair Work Act because they were in holy orders.

"This is not a persuasive view and is not consistent with the law," the report said.

It also found the church had incorrectly classified as volunteers or voluntary workers people who were entitled to be classified as employees, which could mean it is forced to backpay people if the final statement of findings reflects the draft report.

Former US Church of Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder said the findings could have worldwide repercussions for the church.

"I think a bunch of governments particularly in Europe and the Commonwealth will follow in the footsteps of the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman and begin their own investigations and reviews," Mr Rinder told ABC Television.

Mr Rinder said the church was likely to fight the findings.

The church applied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to register a new company name, two days after it received the draft findings.

"The suggestion that the change in registration was designed to circumvent any negative findings against the church by the Fair Work Ombudsman is outrageous, wrong and defamatory," it said in a statement regarding the ABC Television report.


Scientologists face low-pay accusations from Fair Work Ombudsman
The Australian 13th Sept 2011
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/na ... 6136281876
THE Church of Scientology has been accused of underpaying workers to the extent that it may face criminal charges, according to a draft report by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Following allegations of Scientology employees working excessively long hours for little pay last year, the Fair Work Ombudsman launched an investigation into the organisation's practices.

According to the draft report from the ombudsman, obtained by the ABC's Lateline program, some work practices may have been in breach of criminal laws.

"The allegations . . . may potentially be a breach of the provisions of the Criminal Code Act 1995 . . . the Fair Work Ombudsman will refer the witnesses' allegations to the relevant authority for further investigation," the draft report stated.

Allegations aired on the ABC a year earlier included one woman saying that she was asked to work 72 hours without sleep while trying to organise "auditor training" for someone overseas.

She was aged 15 at the time.

While the church argues its religious work is done by volunteers, the draft report found "it is likely the Church of Scientology has incorrectly classified as volunteers or voluntary workers people who are entitled to be classified as employees".

The report also found staff of Scientology's elite Sea Org worked up to seven days a week for as little as $10 a week.

While the church had argued that this group of people were not covered by the Fair Work Act as they were part of a Holy Order, the draft report found: "This is not a persuasive view and is not consistent with the law."

In a statement, the Church of Scientology labelled the release of the draft report to Lateline as "outrageous".

"It is quite unfair, outrageous and highly unethical for any analysis of such draft findings to take place when they are not the final decision of the regulatory authority."


'Volunteer' claim dismissed in Scientology low pay probe
Perth Now 14th Sept 2011
http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/nationa ... 6136446187


Other media:
The Village Voice has updated its previous article:
Scientology: Game Over? Australia May Be About to Bankrupt Church Operations Down Under (UPDATED)
Religion News Blog reports:
Scientology may have breached laws dealing with slavery
Beliefnet:
Australian officials: Scientologists violated slavery laws

Other forum discussions:
http://forums.whyweprotest.net/threads/ ... ort.93614/

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:24 pm

Can't wait to see the dirty details and the final report......

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:28 pm

Fair Work Ombudsman - Media Statement
Church of Scientology

13th Sept 2011
http://www.scribd.com/doc/64808769/Stat ... cientology
or
http://www.fairwork.gov.au/media-centre ... ology.aspx
Australian Government - Fair Work Ombudsman

Media Statement
13 Sep 2011

Church of Scientology

On March 9, 2010, the Fair Work Ombudsman initiated an investigation into theChurch of Scientology (CoS) following claims raised the previous night by the ABC’sFour Corners program.

Further allegations about CoS workplace practices were made in the Senate onMarch 18, 2010, after which the names and contact details of a number of witnesses were provided confidentially to the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist the Agency with its inquiries.

Following a lengthy investigation, the Fair Work Ombudsman recently provided adraft copy of its initial Statement of Findings to the relevant parties– complainants and CoS entities–for feedback before determining its final position.

The draft was provided on the basis that it was a confidential document not to becirculated to any person.The Fair Work Ombudsman understands that a copy of its initial draft Statement of Findings has been circulated publicly, and notes that such circulation is beyondits control.

Further, the Fair Work Ombudsman notes that the final Statement of Findings islikely to differ substantially from the initial draft.

The final Statement of Findings will be made available to the relevant parties– complainants and CoS entities–later this week.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will release the Statement of Findings publicly sometime after that.


Scientology's statement to ABC Lateline, 13th Sept 2011:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/64808462/Stat ... -13-Sep-11
CHURCH OFSCIENTOLOGY
Australia, New Zealand and Oceania
13 September 2011

STATEMENT FROM CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY FOR ABC LATELINE

Draft preliminary findings were issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) with a strict request for confidentiality.

The Church of Scientology has at all times observed such a request. It is disappointing that other parties have not.

The Church of Scientology has, in response to certain draft interim findings, responded with substantial submissions and has met with representatives of the FWO.

Those submissions have not yet been responded to and we reiterate that any draftinterim findings are just that.

Further, in a media statement issued this afternoon, the FWO “ notes that the final Statement of Findings is likely to differ substantially from the initial draft”.

It is quite unfair, outrageous and highly unethical for any analysis of such draftfinding to take place when they are not the final decision of the regulatory authority.

We request that you do not publish any story on any draft preliminary findings as it is clear that you have not taken into account the FWO’s request for confidentiality nor the substantial submissions led in reply by the Church, which may result incertain assertions being expunged from the report in which case dissemination and publication of that material would be defamatory and may give rise to a cause of action.

We reiterate no findings have yet been issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Your suggestion that the Church of Scientology, upon reading the FWO draft finding,transferred its registration as an incorporated association from the NSW Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in order to avoid any orders flowing from the FWO’s final finding is simply false.

In late 2009 the NSW Office of Fair Trading instructed the Church of Scientology Australia (an incorporated association) to transfer its registration to ASIC so that wecame under the Commonwealth Corporations Act (2001). We quote from correspondence dated 11 November 2009:“In these circumstances the Registry considers the continued incorporation of the Association under the Act is no longer appropriate and formally requests the Association to voluntarily transfer its incorporation to a more suitable corporate structure under section 56 of the Act.”

The transition required a great deal of work by volunteer Church of Scientology staff and was only completed in May 2011.

The suggestion that the change in registration was designed to circumvent any negative findings against the Church by the Fair Work Ombudsman is outrageous, wrong and defamatory.

It would be humanly impossible to transfer registration from the OFT to ASIC in two days! The fact the transfer was completed two days after the FWO interim findingwas released to the Church is purely coincidental.

You state that you have spoken with Mike Rinder. He is not a credible source. He has an axe to grind and has a history of fabricating allegations against our Church.


ooOoo


20 Dorahy Street, Dundas, NSW 2117 AustraliaPhone: 02-9638-5200 | Fax: 02-9680-0144 public_affairs@scientology.net.au | scientology.org.au


Some reporting on the above statements:
Scientology hits back at release of report
AAP 14th Sept 2011
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/830 ... -of-report
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaki ... 6136433924
http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/sc ... 6136433924?


**Note: Scientology's hypocrisy, with regard to their complaining about the confidential draft report leaking out, was pointed out on WWP here, in relation to the leaking by scientology of a condifdential report in a murder case in 2007: http://forums.whyweprotest.net/threads/ ... st-1883441
Clamosaurus, posting on WWP wrote:http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/scientologists-given-accuseds-psychiatric-file/story-e6frfkp9-1111114519694

THE Church of Scientology has been granted access to a confidential psychiatric report tendered as evidence in the trial of a Sydney woman accused of murdering her family earlier this year.

[...]

The Australian Church of Scientology applied for and was granted access to the report by Burwood Local Court, where the woman is on trial, although reporters were subsequently told the document would not be publicly released.

Cyrus Brooks, community relations officer for the church, said it had sought access to the document after media coverage linking Scientology to the alleged murders, although access was granted on condition that the church not release the report to the media.

Despite this, Mr Brooks has emailed excerpts from the report to journalists to "correct" their reporting of the case.

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Re: Australia: Fair Work Ombudsman probing scientology *UPDA

Postby Sponge » Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:19 am

Some other interesting info:

http://forums.whyweprotest.net/threads/ ... lia.93622/

TinyDancer, posting on WWP wrote:A new company is born

On 19 May 2011, two days after receiving the draft findings of the Fair Work Ombudsman, CoS Australia applied for the company name Church of Scientology Australia - for use by a company limited by guarantee, but without the word "Limited" in its name.

A company limited by guarantee is a public company whose members' liability is limited to the amount they guarantee ($2). The law requires that its constitution prohibit operating to secure a pecuniary benefit to members. This is the vehicle of choice for many significant charities in Australia.

On 23 May 2011, the new company was incorporated. Its constitution is here: http://www.mediafire.com/?nyirumevfq4wb2f

A couple of things strike me straight away from the constitution.

CONTROL - MEMBERS

1. The number of members is limited to 5. (Clause 5.1) Remember, it's the members who appoint the directors and who, theoretically, control the company. The membership is VERY TIGHTLY HELD, for a public company. This means that there can never be an influx of new members from among eligible Sea Organisation members who want to affect how the company (church) is run.

(They're wanting to prevent a rerun of the CAN strategy, however unlikely that might be. For the uninitiated, the CoS attempted to take over "Cult Awareness Network", a US association that was critical of it by having hundreds of scientologists apply to be members. The CAN board declined their applications and were sued into oblivion. The church bought the name and assets of CAN via bankruptcy court. Wikipedia notes:

In December 1997, 60 Minutes profiled the controversy regarding the history of the "Old CAN" and the "New CAN", with host Lesley Stahl noting: "Now, when you call looking for information about a cult, chances are the person you're talking to is a Scientologist.")

2. The members are controlled by, ultimately, David Miscavige.

Clause 5.6 states the eligibility criteria for membership. Members must be a member of the Sea Organisation and in good standing with the Mother Church.
  • Only natural persons can, presumably, be members of the Sea Organisation, it being a religious order. So, the company can't appoint as members other churches of scientology. This is a change. In the past, the voting members of their churches were only other associations, all of which were controlled by the Mother Church. It's also in conflict with provisions elsewhere in the constitution that suggest that corporations can be members (eg. Schedule 1, Definition of "Cessation Event" and "Representative").
  • However, the members are still controlled by both the Sea Organisation and the Mother Church - as a falling out with either results in expulsion or, if necessary, immediate cessation of membership.
  • Who controls the Sea Organisation and the Mother Church? In practice, as we know, it's David Miscavige who controls both.


CONFUSION - CORPORATE NAMES

There are literally hundreds of scientology corporations around the world, many with similar names. Often, scientology documents don't clearly identify to which entity they refer.

Mother Church

eg. The company constitution refers to the "Mother Church". It's a defined term (the definitions are in Schedule 1).

"Mother Church means the Church of Scientology International"

The entity referred to is likely the California-based corporation - Church of Scientology International Inc. - although the full name of the entity and its jurisdiction are, unhelpfully, not stated. How is an auditor/regulator/member/government/journalist to know?

Church of Scientology Australia

There are now:
  1. Three australian corporations called "The Church of Scientology Incorporated", one in each of WA, SA and QLD;
  2. One corporation based in NSW called "The Church of Scientology Australia Inc."; and
  3. One corporation (a company) also based in NSW called "Church of Scientology Australia".
How are people to know with which entity they are dealing? NB. I believe the FWO will have found that many of the workers did not know by which entity they were employed. Not surprising.

It would be fine if the church abided by the legislative requirements that:

  • all public documents of associations must have the full legal name of the association on them (in NSW public documents include letterheads and statements, and the name must include "Inc" or "Incorporated"); and
  • the Corporations Law requires that the company put its Australian Company Number (ACN) on the front page of all of its public documents. That will indicate to Australians, at least, where to go to find out more about the entity.
However, the church's public documents are historically not very clear about these things:

  1. The letterhead under which the Church of Scientology has made public statements:

    a) its recent submission to the Senate Inquiry into Senator Xenophon's tax amendment bill was made under a letterhead of "Church of Scientology Australia New Zealand and Oceania", which does not state the legal name of the entity by which it is issued.

    eg. https://senate.aph.gov.au/submissions/comittees/viewdocument.aspx?id=950d6f92-0e4d-46a7-8b1c-f7bda5dc3762

    b) likewise, its June 2010 statement to Today Tonight: http://au.news.yahoo.com/today-tonight/latest/article/-/7442179/scientology-tax/

    http://l.yimg.com/ea/doc/-/100622/statement_for_today_tonight_22_june_10-1620t64.pdf
  2. Other public documents simply state "Church of Scientology" or "Church of Scientology Australia":

    eg. http://www.scientologynews.com.au/pdf/Information Pack on Four Corners and Scientology.pdf

    http://www.hreoc.gov.au/frb/submissions/Sub1931.Church_of_Scientology.doc
The incorporation of this entity, and especially the dropping of "Limited" from its name, will likely introduce more confusion into what is already an extraordinarily complicated structure - making it even more difficult for people having interaction with the church to know with which entity they are dealing.

Is it trading?

The new company is registered, but it has no ABN (Australian Business Number). It will require an ABN if the directors wish to apply for tax concessions for the company or rebates on the GST (goods and services tax). As the company's name is so similar to several of the associations, it's going to be difficult for us to tell if the new company is trading, in the absence of registration of an ABN or application for deductible gift recipient status.


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