You have friends exploited by selfish employers? Use “Anonymous Report” to help them get their money and rights

Ram Khatry
By Ram Khatry, Sydney
18 September 2016

The “Anonymous Report” function that Fair Work Ombudsman launched months ago in response to thousands of complaints about exploitation of workers including international students can be a great tool to fight off injustice in the hands of “rogue employers”.

However, when southasia.com.au carried out few face to face interviews and social media chats with overseas students it became apparent that not many knew about the simple online form which is available on the Ombudsman’s website. Some even confused it with a survey being carried out by the Salvation Army.

“If you suspect a business is exploiting its workers, or if something doesn’t seem right, we want you to tell us – we want to know,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James had said in a press release last May, shortly after the Anonymous Report was launched.

She had had “enough of hearing about workers getting paid $10 an hour” and so wanted the general community’s help in combating the exploitation of workers.

It seems her voice has not reached the international students community yet. On the other hand, they are the ones who need to hear her voice the most. Many of the five figure penalties that the Ombudsman secured in recent past were related to Nepalese and Indian students.

The process of helping your exploited friends through the Fair Work Ombdusman website is simple.

If you know someone who is being exploited by their employers or if you know a business that is not “playing by the rules” then you can follow below link to report:

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/how-we-help-you/anonymous-report

Once you are in the page, the form is easy to fill and self-explanatory. The four initial fields (issue, sub-issue, industry of the business and sub-industry) have plenty of drop-downs that you can choose from. Once these four fields are filled up, the page automatically loads further fields to be filled in. At the end of the form, there is space (Provide details about your anonymous report) for the tip-off providers to detail the nature of the exploitation they are seeking to report.

ganesh-gautam
International student Ganesh Gautam will not “hesitate” to report exploitation in the future now that he knows about the “Anonymous Report” tool provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman | Picture: Supplied

For Ganesh Gautam, a young student from Nepal studying Bachelor of Interactive Media at Wentworthville Institute, there are two sorts of overseas students in Australia – those who are being exploited but choose not to speak as they work illegally on “cash in hand” and those who may work on tax but are still being exploited because they do not want to speak out for fear of losing their much-needed jobs.

“Actually, most students have no idea that it is their right to have a stress-free work environment. I have a bitter experience myself. I used to work somewhere (obviously do not want to reveal the name of the place) where I worked 13 to 18 hours a day – without any break! One day a guy saw me working that much hard and gave me his card suggesting I call him if there was anything wrong happening in that place. At the time, I was threatened by the employers if i mentioned anything,” the Sydney-based student who is popular in the Nepalese diaspora for his poetry confided during an interview on Sunday.

Now that he knows about the online and anonymous reporting tool initiated by the Fair Work Australia following his interview with southasia.com.au, Mr Gautam says he would not “hesitate to report any kind of exploitation”, be his own or that of others, in the future.

Fair Work Australia has, in recent months and years, successfully investigated a number cases (in hospitality and retail industries mostly) for extreme exploitation of Nepalese and Indian students which led to the court penalising the unscrupulous employers.

A Victorian court recently fined restaurant operator Farok Shaik for not paying a hard working Indian couple for an entire year. He was penalised $50,872.50 after he admitted he failed to pay the couple any wages for 14 months of full-time cooking, food preparation and customer service work at his restaurants in Yarrawonga, Beechworth and Bendigo.

Another example of exploitation could be the underpayment of $23,000 to a 27 year old Nepalese student and $27,300 to a 31 year old Indian student in Melbourne. Health Express owner Jeffrey Herscu eventually cooperated with the Ombudsman, apologised and back-paid $50,000 to the two South Asian students. The Nepalese woman who worked at the Melbourne’s DFO South Wharf-based outlet from September 2013 to March 2015 was told that she would be paid less because “you are not an Aussie”, an Ombudsman press release from January stated.

According to a Fair Work Ombudsman press release, it receives thousands of complaints every year. In the financial year 2014-15, the Ombudsman resolved more than 25,000 workplace disputes and finalised 94 per cent of requests for assistance through its assessment and dispute resolution processes. In the process, it recovered more than $22.3 million for over 11,600 workers.

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