Church of Scientology faces backpay bill to former members

Sunday Herald Sun, Australia/August 28, 2011

In a move that could send its Australian arm bankrupt, the controversial Church of Scientology may be forced to pay millions in backpay to former members.

The nation's workplace watchdog has received confidential statements from several former Scientology workers who claim they were underpaid, or not paid, for at least a decade.

It is understood some alleged victims told the Fair Work Ombudsman that they were paid only $2 a week for close to full-time work, and had to rely on welfare.

The Sunday Herald Sun has learnt the Ombudsman will soon release its findings after an 18-month probe.

In a statement it said: "The Fair Work Ombudsman recently provided a draft copy of its initial finding to the relevant parties for feedback and is currently considering those responses".

Laws prevent parties from discussing the contents of interim reports.

Insiders said the church had failed to pay core staff - the equivalent of paid staff in other religious organisations - for such a long time that any order for backpay could bankrupt the organisation, or it would need to be bailed out by its US arm.

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