ABC Investigation highlights university and ACT Government duty of care to international students

The ABC 7.30 investigation into serious and widespread exploitation of international students by a major cleaning company highlights the need for the ACT Government and local universities to ensure international students’ rights are protected.

International students, whose strict visa conditions makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous companies, make up 60 percent of the CBD cleaning workforce in Canberra.

As the ACT Government and universities promote Canberra as a high-quality education and study destination for overseas students, it is essential that adequate, funded safeguards are in place to stop exploitation occurring.

The ABC investigation has found widespread and systematic wage theft, sham-contracting and abusive working conditions in the contract cleaning industry.

The issue is so serious the Federal government has convened a ministerial working group.

Both the ACT Government and the universities owe a duty of care to international students.

UnionsACT has previously called for an independent and adequately resourced advisory and advocacy service to support international students who experience exploitation at work.

The following statements can be attributed to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“We know that the serious exploitation of international students that has been exposed in other states happens here in Canberra.

“Almost all international students in Canberra work in low-paid service jobs like cleaning, or hospitality like pizza delivery.

“The ACT Government and local universities, especially the ANU and University of Canberra, must take steps now, before the next cohort of students arrives in 2016.

 “What international students tell us is when they’re exploited at work, they’re scared of going to the university and they’re scared of going to the government.

“Exploited student workers need access to an independent advocacy service.

“This issue is so widespread and serious that even the Federal government is belatedly taking action. Now local universities and the ACT Government need to do likewise.