MEDIA RELEASE | National disgrace: Federal Govt must act on wage theft epidemic

The Federal Government must act swiftly to address the widespread exploitation of international
students and backpackers, the SDA – the union for retail, fast food and warehouse workers –
said today following the release of a report detailing the horrific underpayment of workers in

The report, Wage Theft in Australia: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work
Study, released today by Laurie Berg and Bassina Farbenlum from UTS and UNSW, found that
that a quarter of all international students earn $12 per hour or less and 43 per cent earn $15 or
less in their lowest paid job – well below the legal minimum wage.

SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said it is unacceptable for the Federal Government to
continue to turn a blind eye to the widespread exploitation.
“This is a national disgrace and our Federal Government is just sitting back and allowing it to
happen,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Australia prides itself on our good treatment of our workers, yet here we have tens of
thousands of young workers being exploited right under our noses and the Federal Government
is doing nothing to address it.

“This isn’t confined to one or two convenience store chains – this is an epidemic that is
stretching into stores in every town across the country.

Mr Dwyer said the Prime Minister has a responsibility to act swiftly to address the wide-spread

“This report confirms what we’ve long suspected – that our international students are falling
through the cracks. Now that we’ve got the evidence, we need to know what the Government is
going to do about it.

“The Prime Minister needs to detail exactly what his government is going to do to address this
problem. It’s not good enough for him to sit on his hands and allow vulnerable young workers to
continue to be exploited in this way.”

The SDA has launched a hotline for any workers in the retail, fast-food or warehousing
industries who believe they may be victims of wage theft. If you think you may be underpaid,
contact 131-SDA (131 732)

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