Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Australians sourcing cheap labor on Chinese Web sites

Australians sourcing cheap labor on Chinese Web sites

The Guardian, Australia

Jobs offering as little as A$9 (US$7.04) an hour, well below the minimum wage, are being posted on Chinese-language Web sites in Australia.
Calls to restaurants, massage parlors and tea shops that advertised on the Web sites backpackers.com.tw and tigtag.com uncovered numerous cases of below-award wages for jobs targeting Chinese-speaking students and visitors on working holidays.
The investigation was carried out with the advocacy group Taiwanese Working Holiday Youth (TWHY).
Most of the jobs offered were with relatively small, family-owned businesses, but in one case, the man who answered said he was hiring for a Sydney branch of the Taiwanese tea shop chain Chatime. The global franchise has more than 1,000 branches, including 60 in Australia.
He said the service role based in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta paid working holidaymakers A$9 per hour for the first month and $11 per hour thereafter. Payment was to be cash in hand, but a tax file number was required.
The full-time adult award rate for a food and beverage attendant is A$17.35. Overseas visitors must be older than 18 to be on a working holiday visa in Australia.
Chatime Australia confirmed with Guardian Australia the advertisement was for a job at the company’s Paramatta store, but said as it was a franchise, the company was not involved in the hiring of employees.
“Chatime franchisees fully understand their rights and obligations to their employees. This is something that is continually communicated to them. We certainly take these accusations seriously and we will pursue the matter further with the franchisee in question,” a spokesman said via e-mail.
The Parramatta branch of Chatime did not respond to calls.
A Japanese restaurant in Melbourne offered working holidaymakers A$10 per hour. A Brisbane massage parlor offered 45 percent commission of all bookings, with no basic wage. Inexperienced staff were expected to do one week of training without pay. A contracting company advertised for a fruit-picking job in central Queensland with a piece rate of A$0.11 to A$0.14 per branch picked and no basic wage.
TWHY spokesman Li Yao-tai said working holidaymakers often did not complain to authorities about pay and conditions because they lacked confidence in their English. Along with low wages, workers also often faced long hours, poor work conditions and, in some cases, sexual harassment by their employers, Li said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) was unable to comment on individual cases, but said there were nearly 1 million recently arrived visa-holders with working rights in Australia.
One in 10 requests for assistance to the FWO are now from visa-holders working in Australia, more than ever before.
“That’s significant and is a trend that is concerning us greatly,” an FWO spokeswoman said.
Industries known to employ significant numbers of overseas workers include horticulture, cleaning, convenience stores and trolley collecting. However, the largest number of requests for assistance from overseas workers, nearly one in four, come from employees in the accommodation and food services sectors.
The FWO established an overseas workers’ team in 2012. In the first nine months of the current financial year, it recouped A$1.2 million in underpayments for 345 visa-holders, surpassing last year’s figure of A$1.1 million.
The spokeswoman said it was impossible to visit every workplace in Australia to carry out checks, “and nor should we.”
The ombudsman has an interpreter service and educational material translated into 27 languages, including Chinese. A recent campaign targeted overseas workers with advertisements in Korean on Korean Web sites.
Workers from non-English speaking backgrounds have limited access to the Fair Work system and a large number of Australian employers “have turned this knowledge into a profitable business model,” said Jo Schofield, national president of United Voice Workers, the union for hospitality workers.
A report by United Voice showed extensive exploitation of international students in Melbourne’s office-cleaning industry, where some were underpaid up to A$15,000 per year. Union members have proposed “whistleblower” protections for foreign workers and the introduction of an immigration inspectorate at the FWO.

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