The Fair Work Ombudsman will investigate companies offering unpaid internships for which some students paid $1000, following a report by Fairfax Media.
The Ombudsman, Natalie James, said the report raised “serious questions” about the internships hosted by web developer Future Squared and recruitment by Industry Placements Australia.
Some graduates paid a $990 “administration fee” to IPA for placement in the 12-week Future Squared internship, which is unpaid, and takes place away from the company’s headquarters in a co-working space leased by IPA.
A spokesperson later confirmed: “The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently conducting inquiries into this matter. As these inquiries are ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further at this time.”
The question is are these hours of work experience being counted towards an application for permanent residency? If so then IT salaries have just fallen below zero thanks to Australia’s monumentally fraudulent skilled migration system.
Of course this is no surprise at all given we have seen entire business lines, firms and sectors across Australia whose business models include turning their labour bill into a profit centre via visa fraud. 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.
As Domainfax showed last week:
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.
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 recent UNSW Sydney and UTS survey painted the most damning picture of all, reporting 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.
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.
And why not? If your goal is to crush wages for your capital donors then this a great way to do it. Dr Bob Birrell from the Australian Population Research Institute, whose latest report is based on 2016 Census data, revealed that most recently arrived skilled migrants (i.e. arrived between 2011 and 2016) cannot find professional jobs, with only 24% of skilled migrants from Non-English-Speaking-Countries (who comprise 84% of the total skilled migrant intake) employed as professionals as of 2016, compared with 50% of skilled migrants from Main English-Speaking-Countries and 58% of the same aged Australian-born graduates:
These results accord with a recent survey from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, which found that 53% of skilled migrants in Western Australia said they are working in lower skilled jobs than before they arrived, with underemployment also rife:
The above helps to explain why the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) latest Characteristics of Recent Migrants report, released in June last year, revealed that migrants have generally worse labour market outcomes than the Australian born population, with recent migrants and temporary residents having an unemployment rate of 7.4% versus 5.4% for the Australian born population, and lower labour force participation (69.8%) than the Australian born population (70.2%):
Finally, the below segment from last week’s ABC Radio highlights the absurdity of Australia’s ‘skilled’ migration program:
According to this report, skilled migrants have grown increasingly frustrated at not being able to gain work in Australia despite leaving their homelands to fill so-called ‘skills shortages’. As a result, they are now demanding that taxpayers provide government-sponsored internships to help skilled migrants gain local experience, and a chance to work in their chosen field.
The below testimony from the CEO of the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia highlights the absurdity of this situation. She says that despite being well qualified on paper, many skilled migrants get knocked back because they lack local experience:
“I’d say the majority of them [skilled migrants] will find difficulty getting work in their chosen area…
It’s heartbreaking because they pin their hopes and dreams on when they come across to Australia…”
So why do we have a skilled intake again? To lengthen the dole queue? To rob developing nations of their skilled workers? To provide employers with the opportunity to turn their labour bill into a profit centre? And how exactly is the 130,000 strong permanent skilled migrant program plus temporary skilled migrants alleviating so-called “skills shortages” if it is creating conditions of such extreme oversupply that migrants will pay to work?
Australia’s skilled migration program is one giant fraud that is failing miserably to meet its original intent and has become instead a key driver of Australia’s wage malaise.