Temple Priest: I was taken for a ride

templeSIvaNeeraj Nanda-South Asia times

Mr. Narayana Moorty Seshathiri, is a sad and broken man today. His dream job to serve the gods lies shattered after a kitchen accident at the Culture Centre attached to the Sri. Shiva Vishnu Temple, Carrum Downs. This humble man from Pudukkottai, Tamilnadu whose kitchen accident triggered a spate of not so spiritual events. He talked to SAT Editor NEERAJ NANDA about his coming to Melbourne, Australia and the murky happenings that followed. He recently flew back to India.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: How did you come to Australia?
A: My brother’s son who is a Priest in Melbourne inspired me to come here. I was interviewed by a committee member of the Temple managing committee on the phone and then employed as an Assistant Priest.
Q: Then what happened?
A: I came to Melbourne in June 2011 as an Assistant Priest to work in the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple, Carrum Downs. But once I arrived here I was told to work in the Cultural Centre canteen kitchen and not as an Assistant Priest. But I was also asked to work in the temple for two hours. In fact, even the work was not in the Temple but in the communal kitchen.
Q: What were your working conditions?
A: For the first three months of work I did not get any weekly break. Later when someone went on leave and then I got one and a half days off in a week.
Q: Can you detail it further?
A: I worked 55 to 65 hours a week. Was paid $ 31,000 per annum irrespective of the hours I worked. It was a two years contract and it ended on June 8, 2013.
Q: What else happened during your employment?
A: After one year of work in June 2012, I heard one important person approached a Temple employee for a $ 5,000 loan but he refused to give it. Then a person close to me gave $23,000 to the same person to get Permanent Residency and he got it. Another person gave him $ 15,000 to get Permanent Residency.
Q: What was the kitchen accident?
A: My finger went into the wet grinder (used for making Dosa paste) and was injured. I was taken to the Carrum Downs Medical Centre. They refused to treat me as it was a work accident and I was then taken to the Frankston Hospital. Finally, I was taken to the Epworth Hospital in the city the case being under Work Cover. Then each week I had to go there.
Q: So, what did the Temple people tell you then?
A: They said you should go back to India as you are like a dog roaming about.
Q: What did you do next?
A: I went to a Solicitor to take up my case. Then Work Cover people came and checked the canteen. Investigations by them and other departments found that I was entitled to overtime and other benefits which were denied to me. My Solicitor is working on how much I get.
Q: What is your feeling before going back home?
A: I was taken for a ride. No one should get such treatment in future.

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