Chef Told To Work 365 Days A Year

Chef told to work 365 days a year, court told

The Sydney Morning Herald
October 11, 2007

AN Indian chef brought to Australia to work in a Blue Mountains kitchen says he was driven straight to the restaurant from the airport and warned he would have to work 365 days a year.

Anbalagan Rajendran, 24, arrived on June 1 last year and was met at the airport by Yogalingam Rasalingam, who had paid for his flights and arranged his visa.

Giving evidence against his former boss in the District Court in Sydney yesterday, Mr Anbalagan said on the first day they met in India Rasalingam had warned him life in Australia was tough. “He said, 'Australia is machine-life; one has to work all 365 days',” Mr Anbalagan said.

He said Rasalingam had never discussed his salary or working conditions, telling the young chef only that he would have to work off a debt of 500,000 rupees ($14,160) for travel and other expenses, and would earn no money for the first year.

For the remaining three years his salary would be paid directly to his father when Rasalingam returned to India on business, Mr Anbalagan said.

Rasalingam, 44, has pleaded not guilty to bringing Mr Anbalagan into Australia with recklessness to his potential exploitation. He has also denied dishonestly influencing a federal official.

The court was told Rasalingam had told the Immigration Department that Mr Anbalagan, from Thanjavur, southern India, would be paid $40,000 a year to work as a cook, 38 hours a week, in his Blue Mountains restaurants.

But Mr Anbalagan said Rasalingam had ordered him to hand over his passport and air ticket immediately after he touched down in Australia. He had been driven straight to the Star of India restaurant in Glenbrook and to a restaurant in Faulconbridge.

Upon arriving at Rasalingam's family home, Mr Anbalagan said, Rasalingam gave him a sheet, blanket and pillow and told him to sleep on the floor in the hallway. His belongings had to be kept in a shed in the backyard, and he was told to shower and wash his clothes there.

Mr Anbalagan said in making preparations to travel to Australia a middleman in Chennai named Sridhar had arranged his flights. Sridhar also had asked him to sign his name seven times on a blank piece of paper but had never shown him or asked him to sign any documents relating to his visa or immigration, Mr Anbalagan said.

His evidence continues today, before Judge Anthony Puckeridge.