RLC in the Media: 'Business models' exploit international students

International students living in Sydney are increasingly being targeted by employers who are taking advantage of their ignorance of workers rights. RLC's international student solicitor Sean Stimson spoke to the Inner West Courier.

Published by the Inner West Courier 10 January 2017.

Vulnerable international students are increasingly being exploited by employers who are taking advantage of their ignorance about workers' rights.

Redfern Legal Centre's annual report revealed that international students living in Sydney were targeted by "a wave of companies engaging in increasingly opportunistic business models taking advantage of the influx of foreign students".

In the past financial year, the centre assisted 142 students targeted by exploitative employers. Many of the students were paid significantly less than the minimum wage.

Sean Stimson, the centre's International Student Service (ISS) solicitor, said since the formation of the specialised ISS in 2011, the centre had seen a rise in the targeted exploitation of students.

"The changes that we are seeing is in the structure of those abuses," Mr Stimson said. "Whereas before they were slightly more random that international students might be being underpaid ... (now there is) very much almost a business model - and the international student has become the perfect employee of certain industries."

The businesses sought to exploit the students' lack of understanding of Australian workplace laws and rights, as well as play on their fears about their precarious migration status. The report found that "many students fear reporting their employers for entitlement breaches and underpayments due to a mandated student visa policy limiting their work".

One of the centre's cases involved Peter (not his real name), who was one of the many international students underpaid as part of the 7-Eleven cashback scheme.

After one month of work, Peter had been paid no superannuation, annual leave, annual leave loading or sick leave, and was asked to give part of his pay back to his employer in cash in exchange for his employer not reporting him to the Department of Immigration and to be allowed to keep his job.

Mr Stimson said the continual influx on international students meant there was a "never-ending supply of people who aren't aware of their legal rights". He said an ideal scenario would be for international students to be given information about Australia's workplace laws before they arrived in the country.

Read the original article at Pressreader.com.