Sydney: International students brought to Sydney to boost the New South Wales (NSW) economy and who work graveyard shifts cleaning city office buildings are said to be being paid as little as ten dollars an hour.
Contract cleaning companies are also accused of forcing students and travellers on working holiday visas to accept illegal cash-in-hand payments to keep them "off the books".
The cleaners`` union, United Voice, says it has run dozens of cases for students from countries, including Nepal, Thailand and Chile who were cheated out of entitlements such as superannuation, sick leave and paid overtime.
Other allegations include (1): Students forced to pay secret commissions to keep their jobs (2) Supervisors and subcontractors threatening them with the sack if they refuse to work unpaid hours (3) Forcing those who take a sick day to pay for their replacements out of their own wages and (4) Companies using subcontractors as a smokescreen to hide unethical practices, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
One big cleaning company, the Glad Group, was prosecuted by the Fair Work Ombudsman and is now before the Federal Magistrates Court for underpaying 32 Sydney cleaners, many of them international students, a total of more than 130,000 Australian dollars. A penalty hearing is set down for August 1.
Many cleaning companies have signed the union`s Clean Start Agreement, designed to reform the industry. Under that agreement, cleaners should be paid 22.80 dollars an hour.
The union has now called for a joint state-federal government inquiry into the working and living conditions of international students.