International students and supporters rallied on October 17 to oppose international students being exploited, bullied and pushed into poverty in Melbourne’s office cleaning industry.
The rally was called by cleaners’ union United Voice as part of anti-poverty week.
United Voice Victoria secretary Jess Walsh said: "International students are a very important part of our community. A quarter of the international students we surveyed received less than $10 an hour at work, and 60% received less than the minimum wage and many reported experiencing racism and sexual harassment.
“Unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of international students and ripping them off at work. Glad Cleaning is one of the worst exploiters and three quarters of its workforce are international students. Many are on sham ABNs and paid less."
Pavitar Singh an international student employed by Glad said: "University fees for international students are very high, we don't get concession cards for public transport and we have many other expenses such as rent and food.
“People have come here for a better life, not to live in poverty. People in these cleaning jobs are not entitled to sick leave, overtime or superannuation. They hire people as 'sub contractors' and pay them badly. All international students will find this very difficult."
Melba Marginson from the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition said international students’ lack of rights was “part of a broader problem of lower pay for migrant workers”.
She said: “This Third World situation should not be happening in Australia. Asylum seekers are now scared because of government policy. The community has to come on board as we are bearing the brunt of the worst policies."
The rally marched to Glad Group headquarters. Cleaners want all companies to sign a new Clean Start Agreement and guarantee respect, fair pay and decent conditions for all city office cleaners.
[Get Respect! is a campaign that helps international students understand and protect their rights at work. For more information, visit unitedvoice.org.au. Sign the petition “Stop exploiting international students Glad Group” here.]