Unpaid ‘training’ shifts plaguing new workers

by L&D19 Feb 2016
Some international workers are earning nothing in their first few shifts because that period is justified by employers as ‘training’, according to new research.

The union United Voice claims that unpaid training is especially a problem in the contract cleaning industry, however the issue seems to be widespread.

These revelations come off the back of new figures which show that 60% of international students in Sydney earn less than the minimum wage, while others are missing out on penalty rates and casual loading for working weekends.

The study was carried out by the University of Sydney Business School lecturer Stephen Clibborn.

The results found that it was common for a waiter at a high-end Chinese restaurant in the Sydney CBD to earn nothing for his first half ‘training’ shift, followed by $10 an hour for the first six months, and then $12 thereafter.

Clibborn was quoted by The Guardian Australia as saying that almost all international students were aware the national minimum wage was about $17 an hour, however they felt they have to work for less because their work experience or English skills wouldn’t be enough to get another job.

Moreover, Maurice Blackburne Lawyers have claimed that ‘training’ has also been used as an excuse not to pay workers in early shifts at 7-Eleven stores.

The firm claimed that international worker Pranay Alawala was not paid for a full week’s work at 7-Eleven shops in Brisbane because he was being ‘trained’. Moreover, at times Alawala was only paid an hourly rate of between $12 and $15.

Maurice Blackburne also said that when Alawala complained, his employer told him they would tell Immigration officials he was in breach of his student visa for working too many hours.

Giri Sivaraman, Maurice Blackburn Employment Principal, said recently that he would like to see an extensive education campaign for overseas workers about their rights at work in Australia.

“This will help address the systematic exploitation of foreign workers across many industries,” he added.

A spokesperson for 7-Eleven said in a statement the company was ‘appalled’ by the wage exploitation issue and that they do not condone paying workers less than they should.

The spokesperson added that mandatory employment education was a matter for the Federal Government, but said they had introduced new training for franchisees to remind them of obligations to their workers.