Backpackers enticed to come to Australia with the promise of sunshine, adventure and fair wages are instead falling prey to unscrupulous businesses. DIBP needs to do a lot more to equip working holiday visa holders with information on their rights.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says that too many backpackers are being ripped off. It recently commenced legal proceedings against a Tasmanian business owner for allegedly underpaying 5 backpackers in a brazen scheme targeting backpackers desperately trying to fulfil their sc417 visa obligations.
“We will put to the court that five young backpackers from Italy, the UK and Japan were paid as little as the equivalent of $1.35 an hour when they were entitled to between $22 and $32 an hour, that’s depending on their shift and therefore were collectively underpaid almost $43,000,” Craig Bilstein of the FWO office told the ABC.
According to the ABC the statement of claim filed with the courts accuses the business owner of ‘promising to sign-off on an Italian woman’s 88day regional stint requirement in 2013. He then allegedly paid her $272 for 4 weeks work. And when Fair Work inspectors came knocking, the [the business owner] told them the staff were guests or volunteers rather than workers.”
Penalties for a breach of work conditions are severe with fines up to $10,400 for individuals and $51,000 for a company per contravention, say Craig Bilstein of the FWO office.
So far little has been done to help vulnerable entrants to Australia like backpackers and students to deal with these abuses. The sc417 visa allows those aged between 18 and 30 from 19 countries to work in Australia for 1 year with the prospect for some to extend it to another year if they work for 88 days in a regional area in specific industries, like agriculture and construction.