Pakistani student suing Australian employers for ’slave’ treatmentJuly 7th, 2008 - 1:36 pm ICT by IANS
By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 7 (IANS) A Pakistani student has alleged mistreatment of workers from the subcontinent even as Australia reaps rich dividends with full fee-paying international students contributing Australian $12 billion (US$11.5 billion) to the national economy. The case of 23-year-old Pakistani student Faisal Durrani comes close on the heels of student taxi drivers, mostly from the sub-continent, who had protested against unsafe work conditions in their industry in May this year.
Durrani, who is suing several companies for being treated as a “slave”, was allegedly paid only $1.26 an hour for more than 150 hours of work as a security guard at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.
He told The Age newspaper that he was aware of at least another four security guards from the sub-continent who had only received a small payment for their work at the Australian Open.
“I believe there are a lot more. To me it was an act of slavery, we have been treated like slaves,” he told the newspaper.
Durrani has alleged that he was paid $200 for the 158 hours of work at the Australian Open in a statement of claim lodged at the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
“First, we often see cases where a worker is not paid correctly. It’s not so common to see a worker barely paid at all. Second, our client is a vulnerable worker - a visitor to Australia trying to scrape together an income while he completes his studies,” Durrani’s solicitor, Andrew Weinmann of Maurice Blackburn, said.
Maurice Blackburn is a leading law firm, which is also acting on behalf of former Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef in the judicial inquiry into his 2007 failed terrorism case.
It is alleged that Durrani was also threatened with violence for pursuing to recover his wages. The Pakistani student is seeking about $4,000 in wages and the newspaper said the lawyers are also pursuing interest, costs and penalties that could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Besides driving cabs, overseas students largely work in accommodation and food services, retail trade, health care and social assistance, administrative and support services.
In June, the findings from a study by academics from Monash and Melbourne universities found that almost 60 percent of the international students in the state of Victoria could be receiving below minimum wage rates.
The study based on interviews with 200 international students enrolled in nine universities across the state found as many as 58.1 percent students surveyed were paid below $15 an hour, with 33.9 percent receiving less than $10 an hour.
The study also confirmed what has been long known, that many of these full-fee paying international students are often pressured to take jobs not wanted by local workers.
The Australian Education International (AEI) year-to-date (YTD) May 2008 international student data shows there were 376,867 enrolments by full-fee international students in Australia on a student visa.
Education has become a cornerstone of India-Australia bilateral relationship, with more than 52,000 Indian students currently enrolled in educational institutions Down Under. India is now Australia’s second largest source of overseas students after China.
In the year ending May 2008, there were 4,267 Pakistani students enrolled, a 37.7 percent increase.