Illegal staff claim wages held back
Held: Workers from the market gardens. Picture: Seven News

Illegal market garden workers arrested in Perth last week were owed up to $10,000 each in unpaid wages, despite their employers allegedly making millions off the back of their clandestine labour force.

Withholding pay is just one of the ways workers have told authorities they were routinely exploited by the family-owned business accused of running the illegal labour racket.

It is understood a handbook detailing the methods used to keep workers subdued through intimidation and degradation was discovered during raids on the headquarters of the TLF group of companies, linked to members of the Le family.

BROTHERS CHARGED OVER 'CRIME EMPIRE' | EXTENT OF SYNDICATE EXPOSED | FRUIT, VEGE PRICE RISE | CHARGES LAID AMID MIGRANT MISERY

Workers claim they were also denied access to health care for work-related injuries - including serious injuries that needed urgent medical attention.

It is alleged one worker cut his leg through to the bone after hitting a piece of wire while driving a quad bike, but rather than being taken to hospital he was offered traditional herbal remedies. The fear of being deported if they spoke out about their treatment ensured no one ever complained about their treatment.

Brothers Michael and Canh Le have been charged with harbouring foreign workers and dealing in the proceeds of crime. About 20 other people have also been charged.

The TLF group claims to be one of the State's biggest tomato growers and is involved in construction, fish farming, steel fabrication and even beauty therapy.

Workers claim they were paid between $8 and $10 an hour - well below the $20 paid to legal workers - and were forced to live in squalid and cramped conditions on or near the farms where they worked.

As many as 30 workers would share a dormitory with just one toilet and kitchen between them and each worker would have to pay between $75 and $100 a week in rent.

On top of rent, the workers claim they were also charged up to $10 a day if they had to be driven to work on another property, as well as a fee of up to $25 if they wanted to go to supermarkets to buy food.

The West Australian

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