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New Report confirms: Wage-theft against migrant workers and international students is widespread in Canberra

A new report released yesterday by UNSW and UTS academics Laurie Berg and Bassina Farbenblum confirm that wage-theft against migrant workers and international students is widespread in Canberra.

The report, Wage Theft in Australia: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey, is one of the largest of its kind and found:

  • Thirty percent of migrant workers and international students are paid $12 per hour or less, and half are paid $15 or less. The minimum wage in Australia is $22.86 per hour for casuals.
  • Underpayment is widespread across every industry and every region in Australia, and is especially severe in the food services sector, such as restaurants, cafes and take-away shops.
  • Employers exploit international students and migrant workers by not providing payslips, or paying cash-in-hand, and in the worst cases confiscating their passports.

The serious and widespread wage-theft is prevalent through the ACT. Canberra is host to over 10,000 international students, who are employed largely in the services and food/accommodation sectors.

UnionsACT is aware of numerous cafes and restaurants in Canberra that have advertised for jobs paying below the minimum wage.

The following quotes are attributable to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“The truth is that thousands of migrant workers and international students are subjected to serious exploitation by unscrupulous employers in suburbs throughout Canberra.

“Many of these workers are forced into US-style working-poverty because of wage-theft, insecure work and cuts to penalty rates.

“The report released yesterday confirms that wage-theft is a massive problem, no longer confined to a few bad apples. Unions in Canberra are contacted weekly by overseas workers who have been underpaid, some by many thousands of dollars.

“The Federal Government is more interested in attacking unions and supporting dodgy employers – and continues to be silent on the issue of wage-theft.

“The ACT Government has a moral duty of care for international students, who are enticed to Canberra by rate-payer funded advertising that promotes Canberra as a great place to work.”

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