Church of Scientology facing back-pay claims - ABC Newcastle NSW - Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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.
ABC's Lateline has obtained a draft copy of that investigation's report, which contains allegations of false imprisonment and forced labour.
"The allegations ... may potentially be a breach of the provisions of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (cth) dealing with slavery," the draft report says.
"The Fair Work ombudsman will refer the witnesses' allegations to the relevant authority for further investigation."
The report also shows that some workers in the church's elite Sea Org unit were getting paid as little as $10 a week.
The Church of Scientology argued that Sea Org members were not covered by the Fair Work Act because they were in holy orders.
But this was rejected in the draft report which said: "This is not a persuasive view and is not consistent with the law."
The church argues all their religious work is done by volunteers, however, the draft report said: "It is likely the Church of Scientology has incorrectly classified as volunteers or voluntary workers people who are entitled to be classified as employees."
That means many current and former workers could be owed large amounts of back pay.
In the draft report, the ombudsman insists the Church of Scientology appoint an independent consultant who will review its records so they comply with employment laws and awards.
Mike Rinder, a former chief spokesman for the Church of Scientology in the US, says the report's findings could spur foreign governments to conduct their own investigations.
"I think a bunch of governments particularly in Europe and in the Commonwealth will follow in the footsteps of the Australian Fair Work ombudsman and begin their own investigations and reviews," he told Lateline.
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