ILLEGALLY UNDERPAID: Unions NSW reported a Korean woman (not pictured) picked blueberries near Coffs Harbour for about $6/hr.
ILLEGALLY UNDERPAID: Unions NSW reported a Korean woman (not pictured) picked blueberries near Coffs Harbour for about $6/hr. Trevor Veale

Foreign workers fall victim to illegal job advertisements

A BLACK MARKET of illegal employment is running rife in Australia, targeting vulnerable foreign workers.

A Unions NSW two-year study of job advertisements listed on Korean, Chinese and Spanish websites found 78% of jobs advertised illegally paid below the minimum wage.

Mark Morey, secretary of the union, said one Korean woman picking blueberries near Coffs Harbour fell victim to one of the worst cases of underpayment.

The woman, who arrived in Australia four years ago, was paid about $6 an hour for her manual labour.

"This is wage theft on a massive scale and it's being perpetrated against people ill-equipped to fight back," Mr Morey said.

"There's no one there policing it. The (Federal) Government is not able to police it properly."

Mr Morey said the Federal Government had scaled back the right of entry for unions about 10 years ago.

He said this made it difficult for unions to protect workers' rights as laws now required unions issue a notification to enter a workplace 24 hours ahead of time.

Mr Morey said in that time books were often changed.

Of the 200 jobs examined in the separate Unions NSW audits, close to four out of five advertisements offered pay below award rates.

Mr Morey said these jobs paid on average $5 less than the national minimum wage of $18.29 per hour.

The Unions NSW survey, released on Monday, revealed a total annual payment of $1.62million.

"Migrants often know they are being ripped off but lack the language skills, confidence and support to stand up for their rights. Often migrant workers are threatened or must consider how a complaint will affect their visa or residency status," Mr Morey said.

He said some employers believed they could illegally offer Korean, Chinese or Spanish rates instead of Australian rates.

The audit found hospitality and retail employers were the worst offenders, particularly in Sydney.

Unions NSW this week launched a new website, wagethieves.com.au, to name and shame companies found to pay workers below the minimum wage or requiring them to work unpaid hours.

Mr Morey said the site was still building traction but there were already 21 businesses listed.


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