Students exploited as cheap labour blame work restrictions for their plight

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Pressure is mounting on the government to provide amnesty for exploited foreign workers, who have exceeded their legal working hours.

Many international students, who blame strict working hours for that exploitation, want the government to allow them to work more.

A joint investigation by the ABC and Fairfax this week revealed thousands of workers from the 7-Eleven franchise chain have been underpaid.

In Australia, international students are permitted to work just 40 hours per fortnight, or 20 hours per week, while they are studying.

A group of international students in Canberra want change.

Kofi Osei Bonsu, a student leader at Canberra Institute of Technology, says it won’t take the government much to alleviate the stress.

"I believe that, if the government increase the 20 hour limit to 30, at least, it will help stop this exploitation,” he said.

Kevin Escobia, from the Philippines, has been in Australia for one and half years, studying for his double-masters in business administration and professional accounting at the University of Canberra.

Experiencing first-hand the stress of juggling studies and paying rent, he believes the 20-hour a week rule creates desperate students.

"At some point we do realise, that it's not really enough.

“…Then a lot of international students would be so desperate, to work even in abusive working environment just to be able to support their needs,” he said.

He says an extra 10 hours a week of legal work, would make a world of difference.

“We would significantly decrease the desperation of international students to have enough money to get them going through the week.

“And so exploitation would be lesser, if we get enough money.”

But he is also willing to compromise.

“Personally, I’m okay with making it conditional.

“Because if the government’s reason for offering just 20 hours, is so that students can focus on their academics, then it could be conditional so that if the student isn’t working well at school- that working right would be re-considered,” he said.

The government is yet to indicate its position on the matter, but speaking at a press conference in Brisbane yesterday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said it would need to be “investigated”.

“There'll be a process for that to go through and we can make comment on that in due course,” he said. 

Source SBS

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