The ACTU and two unions have urged the ­national workplace regulator to prosecute petrol ­giants BP Australia and Caltex for their links to the underpayment of foreign workers in Australia.

The unions have called on the Fair Work Ombudsman — which announced last month it planned to prosecute Norwegian shipping company Transpetrol for underpaying crews while in Australian waters — to ­include the multi­nationals in the legal action because they had chartered the boat.

Representatives from the ACTU, the Maritime Union of Australia and the International Transport Workers Federation say the petrol giants have turned a blind eye to “regulated slavery” and are sending jobs out of Australia, threatening the country’s job and fuel security.

The ombudsman has savaged the claims, saying there was no evidence to suggest either BP or Caltex had engaged in illegal ­activity and it would be a waste of taxpayer funds to investigate without any substantial evidence or the prospect of success.

The Australian revealed last week that the ombudsman was chasing $255,042 worth of backplay for 61 foreign workers — mostly Indian and Filipino — who worked on a Transpetrol oil tanker in Australian waters ­from 2013 to 2015.

ITWF national co-ordinator Dean Summers said the “buck must stop with the Australian charterers of such coastal ships” who rip off international sea­farers carrying their products in our domestic market.

“Australian companies like BP and Caltex cannot just look the other way when hiring ­replacement ships; they must be held accountable and should be prosecuted along with the Norwegian owners,” he said.

MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray also called for BP Australia and Caltex to be held responsible, describing the relationship between the companies and Transpetrol as represen­tative of “regulated slavery in a race to the bottom”.

Extracted from The Australian.