Australia - Employers are paying temporary migrant workers half of the minimum wage

Fruit and vegetable picking jobs are often underpaid. 
     
    
                   
     
     
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Fruit and vegetable picking jobs are often underpaid. Show Grid

"The study confirms that wage theft is endemic among worldwide students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in Australia".

Temporary migrant workers represent more than 10 per cent of the Australian labor market and the survey paints a grim picture of the working conditions of the migrant workers who come to Australia in search of a better future.

The survey found that not only are these employees workers underpaid, the conditions that they work in also tantamount to criminal forced labor.

The study, by Dr Laurie Berg from UTS and Ms Bassina Farbenblum from UNSW, followed multiple media reports of slave-like conditions for some visitors and tried to address the lack of data about wage theft, especially among worldwide students and holidaymakers.

Its authors said the results show what many already suspected - that the problem of exploitation of workers from overseas was "endemic and severe".

Many overseas workers are paid in cash, including two in three waiters, kitchen-hands and food servers.

The study issued Tuesday said most of the workers employed as fruit pickers to dish washers earned well below Australia's minimum wage, with people on working-holiday or student visas accounting for 11 percent of the nation's jobs, mostly in restaurants and takeaways, meatpacking, cleaning and child care.

Laurent Van Eesbeeck was paid $60 a day on average at one strawberry farm

Laurent's experience is far from isolated, according to new report Wage Theft in Australia that reveals the extent of the exploitation of temporary migrants.

A new report has found one in three worldwide students and backpackers in Australia are being paid about half the legal minimum wage. "The underpayment was a common factor among worldwide students and backpackers of all major nationalities", said the report.

"A fifth of every nationality was paid around half the legal minimum wage. However, they believe few people on their visa expect to receive the legal minimum wage", Farbenblum says. Jobs in food services also predominated as the lowest paid job among the top six nationalities of global students and backpackers.

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. "For nearly 40 percent of students and backpackers, their lowest paid job was in a cafe, restaurant or takeaway", Berg said, as quoted by UNSW Newsroom. Half never or rarely receive a pay slip.

A small number of participants (4 percent) said someone in their workplace had threatened to report them to the Immigration Department, so it's not hard to see why some workers - most of whom (around 75 percent) know they're being underpaid - are afraid of speaking up.

Some workers have even called it modern form of slavery and add that they are grossly underpaid.

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