Fair Work exposes ubiquitous Western Sydney wages underclass

Via Domainfax:

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…

Key points:

● 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.

Houses and Holes
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  1. “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.”

    And there’s the reason they do it. No consequence if caught.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Yes what a Joke,…all the laws in the world don’t mean $hit without enforcement.

      How weak is this line,
      “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.”
      Why cant we Smash these Pr!cks for past and current breaches!?

      “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…”

      As I said with out follow through and enforcement no new laws mean $hit.
      I reckon those that assist in the prosecution of these Exploiting Employers should get compensated with a percentage of the seized and stripped assets,…the rest going to fund the enforcement body,…like Work Cover, costs are covered with its fines.

      The regime to shut this $hit down, can not be harsh enough.

    • Can’t believe anyone would write an article like that without bothering to work out that disinterested does not mean uninterested, or unengaged, or apathetic.

      • Care to unpack the line above a little? I’m not trying to be difficult, just attempting to understand where are you coming from and what does that mean.

      • Disinterested means acting without regard to your own interests, usually meaning your own financial interests. It has a completely different meaning from being uninterested in something, or disengaged, or apathetic. But that person just wrote a whole huge published article using disinterested to mean uninterested. I am just gobsmacked.

      • Well – ok – if we are to pick nits here, the thing that hit me was this sentence too (emphasis is mine):
        … cancerous reality of an appalling lack of staff disinterest and work apathy around the world.

        So, if we are to go by the “double negatives” that means that umm.. hunh?!

        I get what you mean, and I do believe that he’s used that word badly (feel free to ping him in comments) but that in itself does not detract from the message. And whilst this is not an excuse (or appeal to common behaviour) – how many times our beloved MB editors use misplet werds(!) or words which are just plain right for the wrong context? 🙂

      • Yes, that one was so appalling I just wrote it off as an awful editing/spell check error. But the fact that the author can’t be bothered to even check what a word means, when he or she plainly doesn’t know what it means …

      • Disinterested means acting without regard to your own interests, usually meaning your own financial interests.

        My interpretation is that they are saying workers are disinterested in their work, not themselves.

        EDIT: Did not realise there was some “controvery” around this usage (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/usage/disinterested-or-uninterested) ! I’ve always thought its secondary meaning as synonymous with “uninterested” was perfectly valid (and uncontroversial).

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      I’d be ok with it if laws were brought in allowing employers to punish sh1tty workers with extreme force. It’s probably the only way nowadays to get workers back into line. Instill fear!

      • You, being the beautiful yourself, I’m sure you’d instate a harsh regime of denial and deprivation (or is it “depravation”? – jury’s still out on this one)… You’d be an ever so edgy company…

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        $20,000 fines for refusing to work (striking), not good enough for ya Reusa?

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        ^ Meh, that’s just money, something a good boss should be taking from their employees anyway. I’m talking beatings and attacks on family and friends all sponsored and supported by government and the law!

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        Ahh,…the next phase of the Neoliberal agenda, to enslave us all in a new kind of Techno-feudalism/Plutocracy.
        What Aristocratic rank, would you possess in this new Global regime Reusa?
        A Baron, Viscount, or Earl ?,…a Marquess even,…mmm?
        The Marquess Reusachtige does have a Nice sound to it,…or are you more of an “expendable” Knight?
        I mean I don’t see any other Aristocratic looking fellows here at Macrobusiness.com.au.

  2. Most are not on the books, the shops run the business at a loss on paper, typically employ those of the same nationality, don’t allow EFTPOS transactions. The one’s working are students, will move on, get another load of foreign students to replace, rinse and repeat.

  3. Yes, but we know we’re all obliged to trade off wages for overseas migration, in the interests of diversity. So all good. It must be REALLY diverse and awesome there.

  4. I don’t know what to make of all this. I never was smart enough to think for myself.

    Is there a study that proves immigration lowers wages?

    • Immigration does not lower wages, in this instance the 4th revolution is lowering wages
      but, immigrants have shown they will work at the new wage level, whereas Strayans baulk.
      Im sure they will come around in time.
      JUst read it: as per Reusa below.

      • edit: Automation and AI have not been lowering wages in Oz (yet). They are not the primary caused of what has happened to US wages since the mid 70s. If that were true, then why have Japanese wages been holding up better in the last decade? Are Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands,and France more backwards in the use of automation and AI than the UK and USA? No. What is happening in the Anglosphere is the result of pushing neoliberalism harder than anywhere else and for longer, and that include massive immigration – bigger and for longer. Wages in the UK have been going backwards, and have slid more than crisis racked Spain and are looking dreadful against the leading European countries. Why? What’s different? Surely the difference is not that the UK has more advanced automation than Germany, Scandinavia, France and Japan? The standout is immigration and financialization of the economy.

  5. reusachtigeMEMBER

    No one cares. If the imported human capital are happy to work for a single $ then so be it. Everyone knows it keeps prices down which is good for the economy. These people do the sort of jobs that Australians don’t want to do, like the Indians who are good at cleaning messed-up toilets because their low cast were born and raised for such jobs. And anyway, at least the authorities have warned that they may need to investigate further if it happens again.

    • I agree. It’s always best to just piss all over the floor just to give these people something to do. Otherwise, we would have wasted our time importing them.

    • Mate – youse is a ledgend!

      Many want to break through the glass ceiling, but you have somehow managed to break through the sh*tty floor!

      • Thank you. What worries me is that people in Western Sydney don’t piss on the floor. I mean people like Todd Carney can piss into their own mouths! If they were pissing on the floor in Western Sydney it would solve a lot of traffic problems and save a lot of infrastructure headaches. People need to do their part and stop bubbling.

  6. But I was told migrants were all highly skilled, well educated and earning higher wages than the average Australian?

    • It takes skill to clean a dunny. Most Aussies are dole bludgers, investors or leaching off the govt. No brains needed there…

      • A close relative was a cleaning supervisor, kindergartens and council offices etc, his boss lost contract to a much cheaper provider. New provider got Indian ‘students’ in on much less than min wage. Feedback from customers to my relative ‘ They dont clean the toilets anymore’ ie some people and maybe cultures dont believe in clean crappers and most certainly not for $10ph. Parents using mentioned Kinders were well pissed off after noticing the stink in the Dunnies also. Can imagine this contract has been cancelled and gone to another ‘cheap’ slave monger.
        This leads to what I said a while ago. The median wage is nothing like as stated, factor in 1Mill jobs like this and we might be seeing a median wage of perhaps $35-40K

  7. There is a bit more to this issue. Big companies rort workers and underpay them – that is one issue. On the other hand, for a small little start up like a pizza shop or takeaway there is a different side to this.

    It can be almost impossible to get staff unless you pay them off the books. The reason is that in a big expensive city like Sydney (and Melbourne as well I suppose), poor people will be scraping money from anywhere just to survive. Some income that the government doesn’t know about is extremely valuable. Also, if they have multiple jobs, then the second one gets taxed at the highest rate, even if the primary job stops for a few months. These people can’t afford to lose a chunk of pay for up to a year.

    Again, the tax and PAYG rules are built around last century when people worked 9-5 jobs – I would guess that many MB readers have no idea what it is like on the mean streets. While we are on this topic, small businesses get reamed by the ATO as well in the high cost of compliance. Mostly they end up with some online accounting package like XERO which ends up being a dogs breakfast. The modern world actually doesn’t work very well in practice, but with rising automation and runaway economy, should we expect anything else?

    • “Again, the tax and PAYG rules are built around last century when people worked 9-5 jobs”

      Too true. Doesn’t only apply to low skill professions either. As an IT contractor over the years I had a couple of good years where i paid huge amounts of tax at maximum rate, then couldn’t find work for the next 18 months, and still having to pay off a huge tax debt with no income. There’s no recognition of the volatility of income many people face. But this is one of the costs of the flexible labour system we are embracing.

    • So the pizza shops should be demanding an end to mass immigration in order to make Sydney more affordable.

      • Probably the $million houses are ground zero for the troubles. If they fix immigration then there will be an adjustment period (carnage) while the economy has the tide out with no pants on.

  8. Labor and the Greens should be outraging, all those exploited foreigners need to transition their gender or change their preferences so man boobs Bill will make the Labor party care about them

  9. The government now taxes 90% of super for all departing foreign nationals. This becomes an incentive for both sides to skirt the law.