More exploitation of foreign workers uncovered

By Leith van Onselen

Ever since the 7-Eleven migrant worker scandal broke in 2015, there has been a regular flow of stories emerging about the systemic abuse of Australia’s various migrant worker programs.

The issue was highlighted in all of its hideous glory when the Senate Education and Employment References Committee released a scathing report entitled A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders, which documented the abuses of Australia’s temporary visa system for foreign workers.

The most damning assessments from the Committee were regarding Australia’s Working Holiday Maker and student visa holders, who were “consistently reported to suffer widespread exploitation in the Australian workforce”.

Despite this Senate report being released last year, there has so far been zero action from the federal government, with widespread rorting of Australia’s visa program continuing unabated.

Indeed, the Turnbull government recently put its bill to prevent worker exploitation on the backburner, delaying a vote until at least August – a full two years after the 7-Eleven wage scandal was exposed – amid an extensive behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign by the Franchise Council of Australia, led by former Liberal minister Bruce Billson, aimed at watering down the legislation.

Today, the rorting continues with The Australian reporting that an audit by Unions NSW of job advertisements on Chinese, Korean and Spanish language websites found 78% advertised pay rates under the award minimum:

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said the findings showed “wage theft on a massive scale” was being perpetrated on workers.

A total of 200 job ads were analysed in two separate audits in March last year and April this year.

While the sample size was relatively small, the results showed “overwhelming rates of underpayment”.

On average, underpaid jobs were advertised at $14.03 an hour, representing an average underpayment of $5.28 an hour when compared to the relevant minimum awards.

The lowest rates of pay were $4.20 an hour for a nanny and $9 an hour for an office clerk.

Both jobs have a minimum award rate of more than $18 an hour…

He said migrants often knew they were being ripped off but lacked the language skills, confidence and support to stand up for their rights.

Here is yet another example of how running mass immigration into an economy with surplus capacity is triggering a whole range of unhealthy adjustments. There are now entire business lines, firms and sectors whose business models rely entirely on the systematic undermining of wages and, worse, running virtual slave labour.

We have seen this in pizzas, convenience stores, agriculture, building, mining, accounting, IT, engineering, education, transport, the gig economy and no doubt it is even more widespread.

Surely, the above is also another example of why migrant workers must have at least a working knowledge of English?

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  1. Will be a major hit to educated and professional people’s QOL and COL if this gets shut down

    Prostitutes, massages, nail salons, ethnic restaurants etc will get much more expensive

    • You live in a small world: Accountants, Engineers and IT professionals will also get more expensive.

      They are all imported through 457 visa rorts with the CPA and Engineers Australia (EA) making big bucks by “vetting” their qualifications.

      This importing of cheap foreign replacements keeps the salaries of professionals down.

      • FeknameMEMBER

        I wonder how it would fall out. IT has been starved for so long now, its not like there is plenty of qualified people in the wings ready to replace certain visa workers. I guess if the current workers were grandfathered and they simply dont expand the number, then maybe the industry will slowly turn local.

        Or go completely offshore.

      • I’m pretty sure more “educated and professional” people bang a prostitute or get their nails done than engage an engineer or IT consultant. So Coming was bang on (boom-tish!) in his QOL comment.

    • hareebaMEMBER

      No one takes Irvine seriously.

      Take this dribble as a good sign that her masters are getting desperate as greater awareness to this immigration bullshit/visa scam/ population ponzi becomes more widespread in broader dumb electorate.

      There must be a shit load of derision amongst journalists whom are for and against this immigration status quo as it slowly unravels.

  2. kiwikarynMEMBER

    “Surely, the above is also another example of why migrant workers must have at least a working knowledge of English?”
    I would have thought its an example of why Australia should stop importing no/low skilled migrant workers to do jobs that Australians are quite capable of doing. And people wonder why wage growth is so low. On the plus side, soon Australians will get to live like Americans, with live-in non-english speaking nannies and housekeepers, and a pool boy.

    • SanchezMEMBER

      LOL not according to Jessica (see Brenton link above)

      “In simplistic theory, an influx of new workers should reduce the bargaining power of existing workers, making labour less scarce and making it harder for them to push for pay rises.

      But in the latest issue of the Australian Economic Society’s Economic Record journal, three academics from the Crawford School of Public Policy, Robert Breunig, Nathan Deutscher and Hang Thi To look at the impact of migration and the labour market outcomes of Australian-born workers, and those who have lived here for more than five years.

      The evidence confirms Australia’s migrant intake – unlike that of the US or Britain – is highly targeted to fill skills gaps or to perform work that Australians seem reluctant to do, like fruit picking, nursing or mining.”

      • Those academics can fuck off. If you really really REALLY couldn’t get fruit pickers here, fruit would get more expensive and suddenly you could pay pickers more.

        It’s not rocket surgery.

        Same with mining.

        Nursing is a bit different, because government typically pays so there is no price signal….

      • kiwikarynMEMBER

        If you paid $20 an hour I think you would be amazed at how many Australian’s would be prepared to do those jobs. When they say “I can’t find Australian workers” they really mean “I cant find Australian workers prepared to work 60 hour weeks for $4 an hour”.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        I knew plenty of people who would do the cane harvesting in the north and travel for the fruit picking in the south. There was always more than enough to do it if wages were fair.

        If wages were fair…

        Folk stopped doing it about 15 years ago. Wonder what happened back then…*waves at the Rodent*

  3. Only a problem if the exploited workers have friends and relations in their home countries to whom they complain about being exploited.

    • Are you kidding?

      1/ government metadata capture & spook services will soon shut those ungrateful bastrads up.

      2/ seriously – $9/hr is a goldmine to someone for whom the alternative is unemployment in rural India. There getting exploited, but they’re still getting a better deal than the alternative.

      • FeknameMEMBER

        Then we’ll just have to keep raising rents until they’ve reached maximum occupancy capacity and maximum disposable income.

        haha jk, one of the first things someone does when coming from an unstable background is find some stability (buy a home, establish a savings account). Only us “she’ll be right” westerners take out massive loans we’ll never repay, for goods of dubious value and lifespan.

      • 1/ I doubt our spooks are that effective,

        2/ The choice is never between Australia and where they start from – they’ve already decided they’re going somewhere better. The choice is between Australia and the other 32 OECD countries, especially countries like Norway and Japan that are expanding their immigration programs, or, if you are starting from rural India, urban India. On this last, see for example:

        “The proportion of the elderly started increasing in the southern States several years ago… In the coming decades, they will require a young workforce to keep institutions functioning efficiently, and also to take care of the elderly. This need is likely to be met by people from the youthful north, with many moving to the ageing States. Already, the migration trend is evident, with established flows of young people from these States to other parts.”

      • StatSailor, you need to get your feet back on the ground.

        In India alone there are more people than all of Australia, Japan and Norway will ever accept as immigrants. Then add all the other crap countries. There are 100s of millions.

        So the question isn’t “which first world country would I like to move to today, for optimising my oppportinities?” It’s “I will go anywhere that will accept me. Who will accept me?”

      • @peachy,

        My original comment was tongue in cheek, but my comment wrt India was not. Once you’ve stopped replacing yourself (net reproductive ratio falls below 1), you can’t continue to export people en masse without reducing your ability to make more people. India is about five years off that point, and its current migration levels make the difference academic.
        Sure there are other crap holes, but there’s a limited window where specifically people from rural India will continue to exist as an (for practical purposes) infinite resource able to reduce labour costs wherever a Western plutocrat can convince their government to allow it.

  4. Remember how quickly the Govt of the day shut down the live cattle trade after a story on the ABC.
    This problem will continue to fester, and no-one will care, if it starts to get more and more media attention, the Govt will call for any enquiry, which will drag things out for a few more years.

    • Torchwood1979

      Greenies and the like all care about animals. Foreign workers are needed for the “big multicultural Australia” utopia so they won’t kick up too much of a fuss and anyone who talks of turning the cheap foreign labour tap off will be labelled “RACIST!!!!!”.

      • I got banned from RenewEconomy for saying there was no hospital in AUS before 1788!

        If I say that solar panel jobs should not be given to 457 visa staff, someone in the comment section says “it would be racist to not give the jobs to 457 visas”!

        Logic and reality are alien concepts to tree huggers. I am a tree hugger myself and I know that a great chunk of foreigners are here to work for illegal wages.

  5. English?

    Then we will get Indians from convent schools who are willing to work for $8/hour.

    Charge them $40/day for a train ticket – then getting paid $9/hour to work as an office clerk will no longer be viable.

    No wonder unemployment is so high. Bosses are bringing in office staff to work for $9/hour.

  6. Most of these people being exploited by being paid low wages, they are use to it and is far better than what they get paid back home.

    My wife knows many Vietnamese and Thai people, many coming here for a ‘holiday’ but are working illegally and don’t care they get paid $14 per hour and have to work 12 hour days, 7 days a week, because they are use to the conditions.

  7. Some comparative data: Per capital income in India 17k (houses 1/10 of what they cost here). Per capita income in South Africa 13k. IE South Australia Wages 40k but as we know young adult Australians work part time. So South Australian young adults must work at least 2.125 days a week to beat Indian wealth although our South Australian young will need to work about 20 years on that (check) before they live in a home. Dads expect a wallop from giant sons when they work this out.

  8. Another one:

    Popular Melbourne restaurant Dainty Sichuan allegedly paid employees $10 an hour while they worked 10 hour-plus shifts, seven days a week. The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against the companies behind Tina’s Noodle Kitchen in Box Hill and Dainty Sichuan, on Swanston Street in the CBD, for the alleged underpayments.

    The allegations have the potential to embarrass lord mayor Robert Doyle with the restaurant a major donor to his successful reelection campaign.The restaurants’ owner-operator, Ye Shao, and in-house accountant Yizhu ‘Jessica’ Ding will also face court. The pair face maximum penalties of $10,800 per contravention, if found guilty. Restaurant group Dainty Sichuan donated $80,000 to Cr Doyle’s 2016 election campaign. It was by far the largest single corporate donation in the recent local government elections across the state.

    Have to say the maximum penalties for this kind of behaviour are an absolute joke.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Molotovs. It’s the only way. Fines are nothing for these types and the George Calombarises of the world. The punishment should have them living in fear.

      The fires will make a good lighting effect for the pollies hanging from the streetlamps as well.

  9. – When all or most of your fellow workers aren’t speaking english then why bother learning english ? Then you can talk e.g. chinese with your “collegues” Who needs english, right ?