National disgrace: Federal Govt must act on wage theft epidemic

November 21, 2017 Media Releases News

Media release | 21 November 2017

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 Australia.

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 problem.

“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)

Media contact: Darren Rodrigo 0414 783 405 or Alana Mew, 0419 929 722