Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Student urges government to protect holiday workers

NO VACATION:While Australia’s minimum wage is A$15.96 an hour, many of the 17,000 Taiwanese there on holiday visas reportedly receive only A$9 or A$10

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Saying that many Taiwanese students on working holidays in Australia are exploited, Fujen Catholic University student Chou Yu-hsuan (周于萱), currently on a working holiday in Australia, yesterday urged the Taiwanese and the Australian governments to pay more attention to the issue and better protect workers’ rights.

“I arrived in Australia in August, and found a cashier job at a supermarket through a well-known local human resources agency,” Chou told a news conference held at the Legislative Yuan through videoconferencing. “However, after working there for four weeks, I discovered that my weekly salary was not paid in full, and that I had received no extra wages for overtime either.”

“For the four weeks that I worked at the supermarket, I was owed a total of A$500 [US$519],” Chou said, adding that when she asked to take four days off to attend a conference, she was fired.

“I called the job agency several times, asking them to provide a copy of the work contract, but I received no response,” she said, adding that some Taiwanese on working holiday in Australia have been owed six months’ salaries.

Chou said while the minimum wage in Australia is A$15.96, many people on working holiday receive only A$9 or A$10, while some are fired illegally and are unable to find any help.

“Both the Taiwanese and the Australian governments should make an effort to provide more protection to people working in Australia on working holiday visas,” she said.

Youth Labor Union 95 board member Hu Meng-yu (胡孟瑀) agreed.

“More people are going to Australia on the working holiday program. However, no one seems to truly care about their rights. Chou’s case is a good example of the problems young people working in Australia may face,” he said. “I urge the government to pay more attention to the issue.”

Currently, about 17,000 Taiwanese are working in Australia through the working holiday program, according to official figures.

In response, Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Lee Hsiao-en (李小恩), who also took part in the news conference, called on those who intend to work in Australia to look for a job through official, more reliable channels.

“According to Australian law, the legal hourly minimum wage is A$15.96, so if you find a job that pays less than that, it may be an illegal job,” Lee said. “I would suggest that those who intend to go to Australia on the working holiday program find jobs via the Job Search Web site created by the Australian government. Be very careful when signing a work contract and file a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman if you think you’re being exploited.”

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