Months before the pandemic, an SBS investigative report revealed that newly arrived international students across the hospitality industry had been exploited.
International students were forced to work for below the minimum wage.
The story was first uncovered through a Facebook Group for Vietnamese students in Australia.
Most posters in the group decided not to complain or seek help because they felt vulnerable.
Some stories are horrifying… One Vietnamese student claimed her employer refused to pay her for a shift because an eyelash was found on a slice of bread.
Those students fell into a trap…
Many were working more than the permitted 40 hours per fortnight.
And they feared their employers would report them to the Department of Home Affairs if they didn’t comply with their demands.
That included being mistreated and paid a miserable wage.
SBS went undercover and spoke with 20 different Vietnamese restaurants…
None of them was paying more than $10 to international students.
And many were paying a daily rate of $100 for 12 hours of work.
Bear in mind that the current minimum wage in Australia is $20.33 per hour.
Then the pandemic came… And we saw the biggest exodus of international students out of Australia.
Many of these restaurants and cafes had to shut down.
Others are now on their knees.
Unless they offer a handsome paycheque, they will struggle to find waiters and chefs.
Some Vietnamese students say it’s karma.
The exit of hundreds of thousands of international students from Australia’s major capitals has also affected the big restaurants…
According to The Guardian, big restaurants in Melbourne are now offering $1,000 bonuses to staff to sign up, while restaurants in Sydney are offering as much as $2,000.
Waiters’ and chefs’ wages are also going through the roof.
In regional Victoria they are paying twice the amount they used to pay for chefs.
And in a bid to encourage the remaining international students to fill up the gap, the government has now removed the existing cap of 40 hours of work per fortnight for international students willing to work in hospitality.
It goes without saying that most small restaurants and cafes are bearing the brunt.
Even the ones who were paying a decent wage before the pandemic can no longer afford the high wages being offered across the board.
Small restaurant and café owners are pleading for the government to open international borders immediately to overseas students.
Sooner or later, international students will once again flood our Universities and fill up the job positions in the hospitality sector.
I only wish this time over these international students receive a better treatment and fair wages.
Hope this means the end of overseas students cheap labour in Australia.
Fingers crossed this pandemic has finally taught a lesson to some restaurant and café owners in Australia who had engaged in wrongdoing procedures for many years.
P.S.: The Fair Work Ombudsman is the workplace regulator that enforces the workplace laws. If you believe you are being exploited or mistreated, or if you know of anyone who is, the best thing you can do is to report it to the Fair Work Ombudsman. You can call them on 13 13 94 or click here to find out how they can help you resolve workplace issues.