Picture courtesy of Portside.org
The Senate inquiry into exploitation of workers has concluded its investigation and published its report titled
“A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of the Temporary Work Visa Holders”.
Reading about the report has filled me with horror at some of the practices deployed by Australian employers. The report has identified two suspect groups namely labour hire contractors and franchises particularly 7-Eleven.
An example of the exploitative practices is a survey of 200 international students, that found 25 per cent were receiving $10 or less an hour and 60 percent were earning less than the national minimum wage.
One worker spoke about his 60 – 70 hour working week, dangerous conditions, gross underpayment of wages and overcrowded accommodation. Employers crammed 6 men into one bedroom and others into a shipping container. They then deducted $250 each week for accommodation costs.
This worker was the victim of a labour hire company exploiting workers on a 457 visa (business sponsorship). He then said that when they were no longer required they were dismissed and pushed out of their accommodation (with police help) without receiving any notice.
A typical 417 visa scam (working holiday visa) involved workers at a meat processing plant who did a six week training course without pay. Once training was complete they worked up to 18 hours a day, six days a week. They were frequently denied breaks and often forced to work despite sustaining workplace injuries.
I can’t believe this is happening in Australia. For what?
Does 7-Eleven pass on cheaper products to consumers? I don’t think so. It suggests that this exploitation is directed at improving corporate profits. I’m not saying that there can be any excuse or justification for such practices.
There are 1.3 million foreign workers in Australia, that’ s ten percent of our workforce.
Australians would condemn slavery. But we effectively have slavery occurring under our noses. We benefit every time we walk into a 7- Eleven store or buy processed meat?
What consequences will these corporate fat cats suffer? Probably none. Those caught mistreating animals feel the brunt of the law. Those mistreating foreign workers will face increased regulation.
Why does corporate Australia believe it is okay to exploit people in this manner? Should we be surprised when our Federal government and opposition display a similar disregard for human rights and common decency towards refugees?