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Where workers must pay $50 to get a job

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By the Working Life Team

Thursday, 01 October 2015

Vihaan had to do a week of unpaid training and then hand over $50 for the chance to get a job with 7-Eleven.

Vihaan, an international student from India, said he got the deposit back in his third week working for the franchise, once his $10-an hour job was guaranteed.

He says he was paid the low rate for over two months before it was increased by a measly $1 an hour – leaving him earning $11 an hour of a day and $12 an hour at night.

He was holding out for a pay increase to $13 an hour after six months. But then he had to miss one shift because he was sick.

“I couldn’t turn up to one of the shifts, I told them I was sick,” Vihaan told the Senate committee looking into the 7-Eleven scandal. “All I got was just a message saying ‘I can’t keep your position anymore’.”

That was it – he lost the job altogether.

Made to pay for stolen items

Pakistani student Muhammad was working at a 7-Eleven franchise when items were shoplifted.

“The employer did a sort of little audit of his own, so he could know what things are missing,” said Muhammad. “I think that the employer counted more than what was shoplifted.”

After the boss’ “audit” Muhammad was left to foot the bill for all the missing items. The cost was deducted from his $12 an hour salary.

He says not only was he made to pay for shoplifted items, he also had his pay docked if the till ever ran short.

In no state to find a new job

Aadi came to Australia from India to study a Masters degree.

He began giving out his resume in a bid to find a part time job to support himself and was happy when he was offered a job at the 7-Eleven across the road from the university.

“It was really hard to find a job with no experience at all and being new in a country,” Aadi said.

He was told that the pay would be $10 an hour and that “that is what you are going to get if you go anywhere.”

Aadi said he was “in desperate times” and needed the job to pay his rent. After around 12 months he finished his degree and went back home for a break before returning to Australia.

But the experience at 7-Eleven had done its damage.

“When I came back I didn’t go back because of the amount of exploitation I had already been though,” he said. “I was in no state to find a new job, because I thought that’s what it is going to be.”

Is this the tip of the iceberg?

In light of the 7-Eleven scandal the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) is calling for a complete overhaul of the International Working Visa system and for workers to be given immediate visa amnesty.

SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said there was a real chance the tip of an iceberg has been exposed and that unless changes are made, there is a real risk the exploitation of workers will continue.

“The system is set up to be played by dodgy employers,” said Mr Dwyer.

“We need to put changes in place now to bring about a cultural shift.

“The current visa system, particularly the student visa system, leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation. The Federal Government has a responsibility to close the loopholes that are putting workers coming to Australia at risk.”

The SDA has launched a petition calling on the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to grant exploited 7-Eleven workers a visa amnesty. Sign the petition here.

* Names in this article have been changed to protect the workers’ identity. All three workers contacted the SDA via www.24sevenhelpline.com.au, which the union has set up to assist exploited workers. The workers detailed their stories at a recent Senate Committee Hearing into the 7-Eleven situation. 

Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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Comments

  1. RGG
    Friday, 2 October, 2015 at 5:02 pm · Reply

    When in power Labor should have a Royal Commission on employer’ abuse. I am sure that 7-Eleven is not unique.

  2. Philip Alan Carter
    Friday, 2 October, 2015 at 7:28 pm · Reply

    Can you explain how a Visa Amnesty for the exploited workers will help in this situation? Why is this necessary?


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