Yet another report of foreign worker exploitation

By Leith van Onselen

Another week, another media report about how foreign workers are being exploited by Australian businesses.

This time the culprit is one of Sydney’s biggest cleaning companies, BIC Services Australia, which has been accused of systematic underpayment of international students. From ABC’s 7.30 Report last night:

85 per cent of cleaners in Australia are overseas students trying to support their studies…

One company, BIC Services Australia, has the lion’s share of cleaning contracts in Sydney’s CBD…

Workers are alleging rampant underpayment and underwork by BIC. Most of them are international students. Their visa conditions restricts them to work only 20 hours a week, so many work off the books. Far from home and with little English, they are ripe for exploitation…

On Friday, the union took the company to the Federal Court with claims of breaches of the Fair Work Act.

The union has also identified underpayments of about $450,000.

Of the 197 cleaners audited by the union, it claims 93 were underpaid between May, 2014 and April this year…

The union warn that BIC is just one fragment of a broken industry.

MEL GATFIELD, UNITED VOICE: The cleaning industry is a contracting industry and what you see is just a race to the bottom. Building owners put out contracts on very low rates and cleaning contractors have to complete to get those rates, and through that process, each part just plays off one against the other and cleaners are left behind.

This latest report of exploitation of course follows in the wake of the joint Fairfax-Four Corners investigation into 7-Eleven’s dodgy labour hiring practices, as well as reports of widespread wages fraud at Pizza Hut franchisees.

We also shouldn’t forget the Senate’s interim report into Australia’s temporary work visa programs, released in October, which found that the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa system has also been subject to widespread rorting, with “stark” reports of  “systemic abuse” , including the deliberate and systemic underpayment of wages, excessive work hours, and fraudulent record keeping.

Then there’s Australia’s temporary “skilled” 457 visa system, which has seen foreign workers flood into the cities to work in professions that are either not particularly “skilled”, in short supply, or critical to the economy, such as cooks/chefs, cafe/restaurant staff, call centre/customer service, and accounting. 80% of these workers have also not undergone any kind of labour market testing to determine whether an Australian is available to do the job.

When viewing the above cases there is one word that springs to mind: “systemic”. The abuse and rorting of Australia’s foreign worker visa system are not isolated, but rather widespread, encompassing students and so-called “skilled” and unskilled workers alike.

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Comments

  1. Was up early for a surf 4:30 am.there is a 7/11 on the ground floor of my building.Whipped down for fresh milk for coffee.The owner was in his car ripping up documents and throwing them into a black rubbish bag, I thought he was just cleaning out his car, till I read the news this AM.

    • Judging by the fall in immigration, they are.

      Very sad, I love a multicultural Australia. I love the idea of our country as a “light on the hill” where people from various races and backgrounds can build a life.

      But the way our corporate scum are creating an immigrant underclass, the modern version of the 50’s “wogs are factory fodder” scenario, it’s disgusting.

      • NIce increase in departures (people who know what Australia is really like) but still a slight increase in arrivals. But if more people go home with stories of coming to Australia and being exploited even more shockingly than in their hellhole of origin, the arrivals number might start taking a beating too.

      • Big Arty Sinodinos was on Sky yesterday bemoaning the fall in population growth as affecting our GDP growth. Did not say anything about GDP per capita.

      • Maybe it should also be titled Australian workers exploited, as they are the ones losing out to all this cheap labor. Lets face it, everyone knows that foreign labor is easy to exploit, when you have foreign students that give bogus financial statements that state they have enough money to support themselves in the country and then get here and have to work 40 hours a week to make ends meet they will do it for peanuts, it’s a case of having to. Big business and government know this and like other government departments nothing is very well enforced until it gets out of control. BUT, the real exploited people are the citizens of this country who have to try and compete with cheap 3rd world labor that will work below the minimum wage. Then to add insult to injury government and big biz turn around and tell locals that they are lazy for sitting around like bumps with no job and that their are plenty of jobs out there.

      • “But the way our corporate scum are creating an immigrant underclass, the modern version of the 50’s “wogs are factory fodder” scenario, it’s disgusting.”

        This was the motive for the white Australian policy actually.

        Fronting it was the labour movement of the 1880’s and 1890’s. The viewed that ultimately an underclass would be created due to capitalist intent, and lack of empathy from the wider community. They saw it would lead to a race to the bottom with respect to wages, and a loss of dignity for the immigrant underclass.

    • I agree with Reus achtige here!

      If they cannot find a better job that will allow them to enter property market, what good are these people for?
      Immigration should start with 20% deposit checks and property inspection time sheet signed off by RE agents before they allow anyone entry at the ports.

  2. The union took them to court but we are supposed to believe the Tory line that unions are no longer relevant.

    • The unions are the ones stopping the Tories corporate mates from exploiting immigrants. Of course they aren’t relevant in a world where corporate profits are all that matters.

  3. “Their visa conditions restricts them to work only 20 hours a week, so many work off the books. Far from home and with little English, they are ripe for exploitation…”

    So why is this part glossed over and ok ? If we are going to prosecute the business for exploitation then we should also be canceling the students visa for breaking the conditions.

    • If you follow that thought to the end, you get to a point of wondering whether a sizeable number of international students are unable to afford to live here without breaking their visa conditions, from which it follows that if the law in this area was enforced at all (without necessarily deporting anyone), the whole house of cards could well fall over.

      It may well be that the number of people hoping to never find out if that conclusion is correct forms a large and powerful lobby group.

      • “forms a large and powerful lobby group.”
        Like the educational institutions and immigration agents.

      • +10. Somehow, even the Indian media which went ape shit over racist attacks on Indian students have maintained a stony silence. Perhaps because many of the exploiters(owners) are of Indian origin.

        Fed Minister compared them to people smugglers. I hope we can take her at face value.

  4. The Fairfax journalist Ms Adele is ignorant.

    She said these law breaking “students” work at 7-11 because they are discriminated against when they try to get a job somewhere else.

    What rubbish!

    She should look at the unemployment rate and talk to young Aussie student who have no part time job at all.

  5. In June I asked a young Indian looking man at a servo in Yalta (between Broken Hill and Adelaide ie the back of woop woop) about the predominance of Indian people working in servos. He told me that young Australians wouldn’t work the hours that are required. He didn’t mention “at the rates of pay”. No entitlement to dole might also be a factor for foreign students.
    I would suggest that where a recent immigrant looking workforce seems to predominate there is likely to be either illegal racial discrimination by the employer or illegal workers being ripped off while they breach their immigration or visa status (ie overstayers, students etc). Either way it warrants investigation.

    Also time to end the 457 rorts now before unemployment of citizens and legal permanent residents increases.

    • I think you will find the place is called Yunta. It may be back of woop woop to you, but compared to where some of us live, it is positively metropolitan.

  6. Anyone know the current status of UK/Irish contractor Murphy Pipe and Civil and their alleged abuse of 457 visas some of the Queensland CLNG projects. I heard a AFP brief had been given to the Commonwealth DDPP but that was many months ago. They are sure taking their time to decide whether to prosecute.

  7. there should be no work allowed by these so called ‘students’…they are here under a student visa IMO, well then be a student and don’t work!!

    they chose to be here, and no one is forcing them to work at these places

    if they couldn’t afford things, well then maybe go back home

    • Wasn’t that the case in the 1990’s and early 2000’s? Pretty sure they changed it in part to address skills shortages and as an equity thing, so that foreign students who couldn’t study and live here solely on parents funding could do so.

      • The option to work in an Asian restaurant for cash has always been there but I really hate these “students” coming in and getting jobs in Coles, Woolies, Aldi, etc.

        It was not easy to get a job in a supermarket 10 years ago and it is even harder now. These jobs should be reserved for Aussie voters.

  8. It is common practice for Cafe’s to receive payment for employment of foreigners. The payment is undeclared but the wages paid are technically legal.

  9. There’s certainly some dodginess going on that needs to be exposed, but fair’s fair, there are ALSO some Aussie youngsters behaving like a bunch of princesses and turning their noses up at crappy jobs when they really should just man up and get on with it.

    I’m looking at my nephew sitting on the sofa playing x-box after “resigning” from his HJs job because he didn’t like the conditions. Conditions and pay that are a hell of a lot better today (adjusted for inflation) than when I was pulling $5.21 / hr for the exact same job as a teenager.

    I don’t see the Indian and Chinese kids being such princesses.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKHFZBUTA4k

    • Reckon there’s five or six Aussie youngsters who’d be thrilled to work for HJs for every one who behaves like you’re nephew. I’d have knifed my grandmother for that job when I was sixteen and they weren’t as hard to come by then.

      • Hopefully you’re right and he’s just a relatively rare princess. This isn’t the first time either. Quit maccas for the same reason.

      • I don’t know anything about the prevalence of this type of princess, but they existed back in my day too, so I think just a phenomenon that is always out there at some level.

  10. all these foreign guestworkers coming in on the ‘student’ or ‘tourist’ visa racket are willing participants in work fraud.
    They know – they knew before they arrived they would be working illegally.
    It beggars belief that anyone can say they are exploited.
    Their papers and health checks are fake, their funds are fake, the schools & courses are fake and their purpose in Australia is fake.
    Their identities are fake, they willingly work in blackmarket & vice work and they fill out timesheets and rosters using those fake ids and false working information.

    There is over half a million Asian & Indian blackmarket & vice foreign guestworkers that are working illegally – they were never exploited – they came here only to do that and they send back over $36 billion in largely undeclared or untaxed income each year out of the country. That’s the only reason they are here.

    They need to be swept up & deported.

    Who took bribes at the highest levels in DIAC and border control in supporting these rackets to flourish ?

    Heads need to roll at the highest level – the ministers and Chiefs of the federal depts and agencies in allowing this to happen.

    It needs a Royal Commission.

    • Is that why we get tuberculosis infected immigrants from 3rd world basket cases on 457 visas to work as “skilled” cooks?

      They then collapse after working 12 hours per day and are taken to a public hospital and occupy a bed.

  11. Yes – sadly this is one of the worst things that is happening with the Asian, Indian, Nepalese and other third world candidates.

    Most Australians would be unaware that Australia delegates agents & physicians in these third world countries to do ‘health checks’
    The whole process is massively corrupted.

    The Asian or Indian can easily buy a fake Health check or send along someone as a subsitute.

    A fake health certificate for an Australian visa application costs less than $140 and then no more checks are done.

    The diseases and infection in the person are often not picked up until the foreign guestworker posing as as student or tourist gets sick here – and then presents to a public hospital or the sexual health clinics.

    In Asia, India & Nepal many are riddled with TB, different types of hepatitis, dengue, malaria and a range of other diseases.

    A new highly infectious Indian disease called NDM-1 (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 is a real concern.
    It’s an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to a broad range of beta-lactam antibiotics.
    Over half of New Delhi Indians now have this disease in them but it not even tested for.
    An Indian simply touching something like a other or tin or plate or door handle can easily spread this disease in a public or commercial environment.

    There is no way Asian sex workers or Indian and Nepalese are checked to be suitable for vice – or Indians and Nepalese for the cleaning, consumer goods, shelf stacking or food serving blackmarket jobs they do.

    An onshore health check on arrival by a non corrupted Australian health authority would find that the majority of Asian & Indian visa holders should never have entered Australia on public health & safety grounds.

    • Time to have onshore IELTS tests as soon as a 457 visa worker lands in AUS.

      Do it at the airport itself. If they fail, send them back on the next flight.

      I read that a bunch of Hungarians who do not know English were brought in on 457 visas. Their pay was half the industry standard.

      AUS is truly a stupid nation.

      • Sure -media reports abound.
        Couple of links.
        At least half of Indian visa documents frauded
        http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-22/immigration-audits-reveal-large-scale-visa-fraud/4833710
        If you go to India as I have you see the full recruitment and fraud rackets on open display. The ‘student’ or ‘tourist’ visa is a joke, it’s blatant guestworker recruitment with chance to get PR, Medicare, welfare.

        Ndm-1 is major new Indian disease spawned out of the corrupted Indian fake pharma industry – and this disease in 100 million Indians (2013 – now much more, half of New Delhi Indians have it).

        Very dangerous if any Indian is cleaning, shelf stacking or food serving or in a public place.
        http://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-IRTB-18487
        Not tested for at all on Indian visa health check.
        Australian should have the rights to perform a citizens arrest of any migrant guestworker reasonably suspected of breaching visa conditions.
        All foreign guestworker ‘students’ or ‘tourists’ should be forced to have a legitimate onshore health check and have that health check record ready for display and validation to any Australian citizen – on demand – in the interests of public health & safety.

  12. The Govt. is waking up? Most staff at non branded petrol pumps work for cash at rates much less than minimum wages. They get payg certificate for 10% of their earning to This is going on for over 15 years at least.

  13. Couple of links.
    At least half of Indian visa documents frauded
    http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-22/immigration-audits-reveal-large-scale-visa-fraud/4833710

    If you go to India as I have you see the full recruitment and fraud rackets on open display.
    The ‘student’ or ‘tourist’ visa is a joke, it’s blatant guestworker recruitment with chance to get in to work, steal jobs & try to snare a PR, Medicare, welfare and bring the rest in.

    Ndm-1 is major new Indian disease spawned out of the corrupted Indian fake pharma industry – and this disease in 100 million Indians (2013 – now much more, half of New Delhi Indians have it).

    Very dangerous if any Indian is cleaning, shelf stacking or food serving or in a public place.
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-IRTB-18487
    Not tested for at all on Indian visa health check.

    Australian should have the rights to perform a citizens arrest of any migrant guestworker reasonably suspected of breaching visa conditions.

    All foreign guestworker ‘students’ or ‘tourists’ should be forced to have a legitimate onshore health check and have that health check record on them ready for display and validation to any Australian citizen – on demand – in the interests of public health & safety.

    • I guess the Australian visa fraud is rampant all over Asia and Middle East and perhaps parts of East Europe. As for the Delhi Bug I think 50% is a bit outrageous guesstimate. Have not seen such news in other major publication elsewhere. Thanks for the source though

  14. Actually NDM-1 as disease is epidemic in New Delhi and present in all the water supply and over half the Indians had it in their gut so were carriers. That was 2013 so worse now.

    This disease spread by Indians is very contagious by touch or fluids – one Indian infected over 18 in a Canadian hospital just by touching the door handle. (Dead set)

    It’s lethal as the ndm-1 enzyme spread by Indians makes any Bacterial infection a super and all antibiotics are useless.

    It has spread to other parts of India as well as Bangladesh & neighbouring countries.
    By Indian guestworkers and those countries that are infected guestworkers often also posing as students or tourists.

    The point is that the Australian ‘visa health check’ which is frauded in many cases by the corrupter offshore agent – that test doesn’t even check for this Indian disease.

    That’s how out of control the whole immigration visa fraud racket has become.

    Australia has no bio security controls at all on what are millions of third world migrants coming in, on known lethal disease spread.
    Why every guestworker should be checked onshore by a proper authorised doctor and gave to carry & produce a medical fitness certificate on demand.

    Here is link that then has the lancet and other reputable information on this risk to Australia.

    http://afludiary.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/eid-journal-extensively-drug-resistant.html?m=1