Contributed from Victoria
A recruitment company has been found charging both students and migrants up to $1,870 each, for the privilege of an unpaid job trial. They look like bogus internships, and a means to provide free labour through deceit.
Recruited individuals are placed into a month-long period working for no wages, and then shuffled off to a list of associated companies.
The company operating the scam is called Budding Talents Recruitment and has been around since 2007.
News of this scam has come about, because someone from the company inadvertently called the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), with a view of selling its scheme. It didn’t go down too well.
Although this case has now come to light, it is not known how many others are doing the same thing.
In this case, the target has been what its advertising describes as, individuals with overseas experience. In other words, those least likely to know their entitlements and be unaware that in Australia it is illegal to not pay wages to employees.
But the owner of the company, Ryan Shrestha claims that it is legal under the Fair Work Act.
“There can be some trial per the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) guidelines, if the employer can try them for a limited time,” he said. In this case they meet the unpaid work guidelines, Shrestha suggests.
A technicality is being used. The guidelines say that where there is an employment relationship between the worker and the business, wages must be paid. But if the purpose o provide experience, not doing productive work for the business and short-term, a wage does not have to be paid.
This is cold comfort. The allowance amounts to a loophole that allows unscrupulous employers to to employ in the guise of a bogus internship and keep this position filled, with a revolving door of recruits.
The only legitimate unpaid work is that of volunteers, who willingly gives up their time, because of commitment to a cause, or when it’s a placement, as part of a legitimate course that leads to a recognised qualification.
There is legal opinion that what Budding Talents Recruitment is doing is still illegal. If that is the case, why is the company not being prosecuted?
This is unlikely to be the only outfit involved in this sort of scam. It is clear that these sort of practices are not being policed as they should be.
Budding Talents is being paid under the PaTH scheme, to run its internship placements. With this, $200 per fortnight goes to the intern and $1000 is handed to the employer (sorry, intern sponsor), who might then transfer money to the third party in the form of a fee, to the recruitment agency.
Situations like this do not happen by accident. They are engineered. That it has come about, reveals the mind of the current Australian government. And this is its desire to create a cheap labour workforce.
The internship loophole fits in snugly with other measures that have been put in place in recent times, including escalating punitive pressure through Centrelink, the abolition of penalty rates in the hospitality industry, maintaining benefits well below the poverty line and the lifting of the retirement age.