A concentration of underpaid workers has been uncovered in western Sydney, with almost two- thirds of businesses audited found to be seriously short-changing workers or failing to keep proper pay records.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigation found that 64 per cent of almost 200 businesses audited were breaching workplace laws in suburbs including Cabramatta, Guildford, Mount Druitt, Fairfield and Merrylands.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said businesses that were underpaying workers and not issuing them with correct pay records were on notice that future breaches could result in serious enforcement action.
…The suburbs are also home to a higher than average proportion of migrants, with both Harris Park (85 per cent) and Parramatta (74 per cent) at more than twice the national average of 30.2 per cent.
…“When combined with a lack of familiarity with workplace laws, language barriers can present significant difficulties to employers seeking to understand and comply with their obligations.”
…She said new arrivals to Australia might have a limited awareness of Australian workplace laws.
Clearly the Fair Work Ombudsman is racist, as Greg Jericho recently suggested when discussing weak wages:
Immigration – because there are many desperate to hate – must be treated with extreme care by politicians and journalists, and certainly with more care than Abbott seems capable. The inherently racist parties will seek to use any discussion and any seeming evidence of the negative impact of migrants as fuel to burn their fires of hate.
Well, I guess we’ll just have to be racist as we recall the appalling recent history of migrant wage rorting in Australia.
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 and visa system.
The issue culminated in 2016 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”.
Mid last year, ABC’s 7.30 Report ran a disturbing expose on the modern day slavery occurring across Australia.
Meanwhile, Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Natalie James, told Fairfax in August that people on visas continue to be exploited at an alarming rate, particularly those with limited English-language skills. It was also revealed that foreign workers are involved in more than three-quarters of legal cases initiated by the FWO against unscrupulous employers.
Then The ABC reported that Australia’s horticulture industry is at the centre of yet another migrant slave scandal, according to an Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into the issue.
The same Parliamentary Inquiry was told by an undercover Malaysian journalist that foreign workers in Victoria were “brainwashed” and trapped in debt to keep them on farms.
Finally, a UNSW Sydney and UTS survey found that wages theft is endemic among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants:
One in three international students and backpackers are paid about half the legal minimum wage, according to a major new report, Wage Theft in Australia, the most comprehensive study of temporary migrants’ work and conditions in Australia.
The report draws on survey responses from 4,322 temporary migrants from 107 countries in all states and territories. It was authored by Laurie Berg, a senior law lecturer at UTS, and Bassina Farbenblum, a senior law lecturer at UNSW Sydney.
The report presents a bleak but much-needed national picture of the extent of wage theft among international students and backpackers in Australia, and how it varies across different nationalities, visas and industries, say the authors…
Co-author Laurie Berg says wage theft is not confined to fruit and vegetable picking or convenience stores, nor is it confined to any nationalities.
“A fifth of every nationality was paid around half the legal minimum wage. For almost 40% of students and backpackers, their lowest paid job was in a cafe, restaurant or takeaway.”
Berg says the study also shows international students and backpackers encounter conditions that may constitute criminal forced labour.
In 91 cases, respondents had had their passports confiscated by employers; 173 respondents were required to pay upfront “deposits” of up to $1000 to secure a job in Australia; and 112 respondents had been asked to pay money back to their employer in cash after receiving their wages.
The study also found 44% of overseas workers are paid in cash, including two in three waiters, kitchen-hands and food servers. Half never or rarely receive a payslip.
The study raises urgent concerns about the actions and resourcing required of government, business, unions and other service providers to address the scale of non-compliance, says Farbenblum…
● A quarter of all international students earn $12 per hour or less and 43% earn $15 or less in their lowest paid job.
● A third of backpackers earn $12 per hour or less and almost half earn $15 or less in their lowest paid job.
● Workers from Asian countries including China, Taiwan and Vietnam receive lower wage rates than those from North America, Ireland and the UK. Chinese workers are also more likely to be paid in cash.
We say this every time one of these stories emerges: there are now entire business lines, firms and sectors across Australia whose business models rely heavily on the systematic undermining of wages and, worse, running virtual slave labour.
We have seen this in fast food, convenience stores, agriculture, building, accounting, IT, engineering, education, transport, the gig economy and no doubt it is even more widespread.
The Senate report on the exploitation of temporary foreign workers was released in March 2016, and yet two years later there has been minimal action from the federal government, with widespread rorting of Australia’s visa program continuing unabated and preposterous Fake Left apologists branding anyone who tackles the issue a racist.
This is the core of Australia’s wage malaise right here.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.
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