7 – Eleven’s worker exploitation scam has made headlines here in Australia and overseas. Though the franchisees are responsible for the exploitation of workers, the Australian HQ of the company is expected to take the blame and responsibility for the mess, the parent being an international giant.
But the real concern here is not the attitude of the retail giant towards its franchisees or its workers. 80% of 7 Eleven’s franchisees are Asians and a large number of them Indians. The exploitation has more to do with the Asian attitude.
Exploitation arising from the caste hierarchy has been a permanent feature in India for many thousands of years. While fighting against it with tooth and nail, it is seems like most have taken inspiration from it. Instead of pragmatically dealing with it, the culture of exploitation has transcended to every level of the society. This attitude has spread to gender based exploitation, class based exploitation, race based exploitation, and politics based exploitation and anything one can name about. The caste division was primarily based on labour exploitation. With or without the caste factor the labour exploitation is an omnipresent reality in India. The general impression in the society is that the exploiter is the smart guy and the exploited is the misfit. Every single person , when the opportunity knocks, choose to be the smart guy.
The Pay scam – The Worker exploitation at 7 Eleven Stores
The pay scam is done in three different ways at 7 Eleven Stores
The half pay system– The workers are paid legally correct per hour rates but they are paid only for half the hours they worked.
Full pay money return – The workers are paid full pay and money will go into their bank account. But the worker is expected to withdraw the money from their account and pay back the employer the excess amount paid, the next day itself.
Pay in Hand – There won’t be any record of the employee in the work register of the company and the employee will be paid their weekly wages in hand. This way the employee saves tax, but the pay could be as low as $4 an hour.
In all three cases, the employee records are falsified. It is a sad fact that most of the (I am not using the word ‘all’ for legal reasons) Indian owned 7 Eleven stores in Australia are guilty of this exploitation.
If you think that – it all starts and ends with 7 eleven stores, you are mistaken. The situation in Indian Owned restaurants here in Australia are even worse.
The worker exploitation in Indian Owned Restaurants
So far only two Indian restaurant Owners have been prosecuted for exploiting their workers. Diveye Kumar Trivedi, owner of Mand’s Indian Restaurant in Eastwood, Sydney was ordered to pay $200000 for what the judge labelled a grotesque abuse of Australia’s 457 Visa program.
Divye Kumar Trivedi
Faroq Shaik, former owner of Indian Tandoori Restaurant in Country Victoria was charged for making an Indian couple work for him for no pay for almost a year.
Whenever the compensation payment is higher, it is unlikely for the victim to receive he compensation as the company will enter into receivership after the court verdict.
Many well respected Indian Restaurant owners in the community are propagating this exploitation in the name of helping Indian students get their permanent residence in Australia. Most of them have liberally misused the 457 Visa program. If rumours are to be believed around 80% of the Indian restaurants here in Australia underpay their workers.
A few years back, I met an Indian student who complained of an Indian Owned Subway restaurant in Melbourne City. The owner made him work for six months at his restaurant without any pay claiming that he is giving him free training. But at that time I had no solution to offer him as he was working much more than the allowed 20 hours per week.
Exploitation at Indian owned manufacturing companies
Almost all of the medium scale, Indian owned companies adhere to labour legislations. But on the small scale operations, exploitation is rampant. These companies mostly employ visa over stayers and illegals. The workers are paid in hand and there won’t be any record of the employees working hours. But there is a very important safety and well-being issue as generally these workers are not covered with any insurance.
The Temple of Satan at Helensburgh
Sri Venketeswara Temple, Helensburgh in South Sydney was the first to gain national attention for worker exploitation in 2001. The eight stonemasons brought from India were paid a pittance for their craftsmanship. They received $145 a month and were forced to work 7 days a week. There were no time and wage records of their employment and that no insurance or Medicare coverage has been provided for them.
When Indians Exploit Indians
A three-year-long qualitative study by Macquarie University, titled `Precarious experiences of Indians in Australia on 457 temporary work visas`, was published in 2013. The study found that Workers in non-unionised, sub-contracting or small businesses employed by `co-ethnics` ( INDIANS) are the most vulnerable and the worst cases involved Indian-owned enterprises such as restaurants.
The study also found that Indian employers justified their treatment of their 457-visa workers saying that “this is what these workers are used to in their own country.” The Indian business owners made their 457 visa holders work upto 18 hours a day, seven days a week without paid overtime, being forced to work in unsafe conditions.
Non-monetary Incentives of the exploited
The Indian workers exploited here, come in three categories, the students, the 457 visa holders and the visa over stayers
Most of these students come here with inadequate funds to support them. For a large majority, gaining a qualification is not the aim, but a permanent residency is. They come here to study cookery, hairdressing, automotive maintenance, multimedia, and accounting. The educational institutions, run by Indians are specifically created for catering their needs. Most of them don’t run classes at all and employ these students in businesses run by them and their cronies for a pittance.
Recently, three Indians, Bobby Singh, Rakesh Kumar and Mukesh Sharma, proprietors of St Stephens Institute in Reservoir and Symbiosis in Footscray were charged for heading a syndicate bringing students to Australia on the pretence of doing courses in Australia by promising them Permanent Residency at the end of the course. There are no victims in this saga, as the students’ right from the beginning are fully aware that, they are going to misuse a loophole in a fraudulent way.
457 Visa holders
Initially, 457 Visa holders show their gratitude to their employers for bringing them to Australia by showing a sort of over enthusiasm in their work. Indians are experts in digging where it is wet. The workers are often tied in contracts that forbade them from seeking other employment. Their poor English skills and lack of knowledge of labour laws here, often prevent them from seeking outside help. They eventually end up as an exploiter’s dream servant. Many also reported feeling trapped by family and kinship links to their employers. There are instances when employers threatened to kill them or harm their families in India if they don’t comply with their demands.
The over stayers and illegals
These category are usually found to be employed in the manufacturing sector. Most of them are visa over stayers or students who discontinued their studies. Some of the manufacturers provide onsite accommodation which by any standards can be described as pathetic.
It is important to bring the guilty to the book, while taking a softer approach towards the exploited.
Commonwealth Criminal Code Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code set out offenses for human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced labour, deceptive recruiting for labour or services, debt bondage, and forced marriage. The Commonwealth Migration Act and the Commonwealth Fair Work Act also contain provisions that are important to protect the rights of people who have come to Australia to work.
|Below is a News item from SBS.COM.AU|
The Sad story of Manjit Singh (Courtesy: SBS.COM.AU )
A Coroner said that the death of an Indian man – Manjit Singh, who was working under appalling conditions on a 457 visa in Sydney is one of the saddest stories he has ever heard.
Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon will now write to the Minister for Immigration about Manjit Singh’s case, which he described as a “21st-century retelling” of George Orwell’s essay “How the Poor Die”.
Here’s how Manjit Singh died:
Manjit Singh came to Australia in 2006 on a 457 visa. He believed he was going to be paid $43000 per year working at an Indian restaurant. He was 33 when he died at Royal North Shore Hospital on August 26, 2011, from the complications of tuberculosis.
His 457 application was sponsored by Anmol Holdings — trading as North Indian Flavour in Darlinghurst in Sydney’s inner east — and was signed by Gurjit Singh, who described himself as the manager.
Mr Singh later described the conditions he lived in as slave-like to the Australian Federal Police.
According to his statement to officers, he was required to work from 8am until midnight, seven days a week.
He slept in the restaurant’s storeroom at night, had limited food to eat, no mobile or internet access and had no shower or bath.
Mr Singh also allegedly transferred $12,000 from a loan his father took out into his new boss’s bank account, after he was told he had not passed the medical.
Although Manjit Singh stopped working for Gurjit Singh in 2008, by May 2009 he was malnourished, folate deficient and had severe vitamin D deficiency.
By August 2011 his once-latent tuberculosis had flared up and part of his right lung was described as “unsalvageable” and removed. He died as a result of surgery.