According to new data obtained by ABC reporters, thousands of international workers are being paid less and denied basic employee entitlements. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James discussed the increasing statistical reality of working in Australia, citing several high profile cases which show drastic changes in working conditions.

Ms. James went on the record to speak out about the surging number of complaints related to the hospitality, retail, construction and services industries. The Ombudsman has so far recovered more than twenty million dollars worth of denied payments, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The single largest rise in complaint volume came from international workers who believed they were denied proper recourse and remuneration.

“One in 10 of our complaints are now coming from visa holders. That’s significant and that is a trend that’s on the up,” Ms. James told the ABC. The worrying trend has been evident in the Ombudsman’s increasing role in making amends. In 2012, Ms. Jones’ office reclaimed $67,000 in underpaid entitlements. One year later the office was reclaiming $262,000. And the following year, last year, Ms. Jones was responsible for the actions which resulted in $345,000 worth of payments to 309 foreign nationals.

Some claim that the denial of proper wages is an intended action on the part of stingy employers. David O’Byrne, a representative of the union organisation the United Voice, told the ABC that the social situation of working overseas allows domestic employers to take advantage of the more vulnerable. “Unfortunately what we are seeing is too many employers are taking advantage of people. Either they have poor English skills [or are] just starting the job in hospitality and they’re very fearful for their job security if they make waves.”

Despite the obvious up-swing in reported cases, Ms. Jones believes that many workers are not intentionally underpaid. This sentiment may be politically expedient, but it does little to soothe tension and address a growing social and economic imbalance.


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