80 percent of international students working as waiters are underpaid: survey

22 April, 2016 by
Danielle Bowling

A survey conducted by the University of Sydney has found that more than 80 percent of international students working as waiters are paid below the minimum wage.

Around 90 percent of Sydney-based students working in retail are paid less than the award rate of $18.99 an hour, while over 80 percent of those working in front of house roles in restaurants are paid less than $18.47 an hour.

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The University of Sydney Business School survey involved more than 1,400 students, around 75 percent of who were between the ages of 20 and 24 and many were in the workforce for the first time.

Sydney University’s Dr Stephen Clibborn said the federal government needs to do more to support the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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“The Fair Work Ombudsman is doing a very good job trying to enforce our employment laws with very limited resources,” Clibborn said. “The federal government needs to step in with additional resources if we are going to have any chance of ending this abuse.”

He went on to suggest that young international students are a particularly vulnerable group of workers in the Sydney community.

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“Many have basic or poor English language skills and they don’t know their rights or how to enforce them. They are also away from home for the first time and are cut off from their natural support networks.

“This situation is further aggravated by the fact that there is an oversupply of student workers in some areas and this leaves many feeling that they can be easily replaced if they complain.”

Clibborn added that union membership is low in the retail sector and close to non-existent in hospitality.

“When you combine these conditions with inadequate enforcement of the law, these students are blocked from travelling the normal pathways to justice,” he said.

A number of hospitality businesses have been caught out by Fair Work for underpaying international workers, including popular Malaysian eatery, Mamak, which is accused of short changing six casual staff members – all from non-English speaking backgrounds – with flat rates of as little as $11 an hour.