Australia workplace watchdog urges overseas students to get in touch

Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman has published an open letter to the country's international students advising them of their work rights and urging them to get in contact with any concerns.

In the letter published last week, Natalie James, the government's Fair Work Ombudsman, stressed, "International students have the same rights as all workers in Australia."


She advised, "You may have a part-time or casual job while you study in Australia. Depending on the job, most people should be paid at least AUS$18.29/hour; and over AUS$22.86/hour if you are a casual employee. You may be entitled to even more than this depending on the industry you work in, or if penalty rates apply to your shifts."


The letter provides links for pay calculators and helplines, and advises that assistance is available in 30 languages. "Protections exist for all workers and you can't be paid below the minimum pay rates. Please seek our help if you think something doesn't seem right," she said. Chinese and Vietnamese versions of the letter were also published.


In a press release accompanying the open letter, the authority said it was pursuing a strategy of reaching out to international students as the number of reported issues was disproportionately low compared to other categories of visa holders.


"We know that international students can be reluctant to speak out when something is wrong, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. This is especially the case when students think that seeking assistance will damage future job prospects or lead to the cancellation of their visa," Natalie said.


She added that conduct that the Fair Work Ombudsman sees against international students "is often serious and highly exploitative", and that a large percentage of the cases filed in court involved international students, despite the low number of issues reported.


At the time of writing, AUS$1 = US$0.78



By Matthew Knott

News Editor