Worker Story: Kamran’s long fight for justice after a workplace injury

Kamran came to the Migrant Workers Centre for assistance with an injury in early 2021. He was suffering from the ongoing debilitating effects of a physical injury he had sustained a few years prior working at a car wreckers company in June 2017. 

Kamran had come to Australia from Iran and was on a bridging visa. He found a job at a car wrecker in Melbourne where his duties included cleaning the office and loading and unloading containers of heavy car parts. The job was cash in hand and he didn’t have an employment contract. 

Kamran describes how the injury occurred: “My colleague and I were told to load car parts in two containers.” Some parts were incredibly heavy, and he recalls he tried to speak up about it, “I told my boss we cannot carry on with the work as we were loading parts without involving any machinery, but I was told to continue to do it.” 

“While loading parts in the container I felt pain in both legs but as we have been asked to continue to load, we kept going till 5:00pm.” 

As a result of the heavy lifting without proper equipment, Kamran suffered injury to his legs which caused him ongoing pain. He saw a doctor at the time and had an injury report, but he didn’t seek compensation or apply for WorkCover because he didn’t know how. Being on a bridging visa, he was also afraid, “I was scared it will affect my visa and I did not know my rights.” 

Over the subsequent years, Kamran experienced ongoing debilitating pain which increasingly affected his ability to work as time went on until he was unable to do any more physical labour. The injury also took a mental toll on him, “I am going through a lot as I cannot work anywhere due to my injury, I have a mother to support back home.” 

It was around this time that he came to the Migrant Workers Centre for assistance. We offered Kamran advice through a volunteer translator and provided information about workplace OH&S rights, and explained the process for applying for WorkCover. 

Unfortunately, we discovered Kamran had been working cash in hand with no proof of employment. To complicate matters further, the employer subsequently denied Kamran was ever employed by them, making the WorkCover claim incredibly difficult to pursue. 

We referred the matter to Union Assist who helped the Kamran apply for conciliation with the employer. Unfortunately, as the employer wasn’t willing to cooperate, the conciliation wasn’t successful. However, Kamran wasn’t ready to give up without a fight. With support from Union Assist and a community legal centre, he has now initiated legal proceedings in the Magistrates Court. 

Kamran’s case is a stark example of how formal avenues of compensation can be inaccessible to migrant workers where issues such as access to information about workplace rights, cash in hand payments, fear of a prohibitive visa system and language barriers can compound to create extreme circumstances of injustice.