ALLEGATIONS of falsified documents, defrauding the Commonwealth and exploiting international students have come to light as three men with links to Australia Post have been arrested. Jennifer Zhao has the details.
Three men charged with serious visa, migration and work exploitation crimes were arrested last Wednesday following coordinated raids across Melbourne conducted by members of the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and Australian Skills Quality Authority.
Baljit “Bobby” Singh, who part-owns St. Stephen’s Institute — a government-subsidised education college in Reservoir, Melbourne’s north — and his two business associates, Rakesh Kumar and Mukesh Sharma, appeared before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and were alleged to have underpaid workers and illegally employed international students as postal workers.
Foreign students were lured to St. Stephen’s Institute under the false pretense that they would gain working visas or permanent residency upon finishing a course at the college.
Once they arrived however, education was not delivered. Instead, students were sub-contracted to work for Australia Post at sub-award wages, despite receiving multiple warnings from union officials over the exploitation of overseas students and workers.
Australia Post — a federal government-owned enterprise — has since dropped its working relationship with Mr Singh by terminating their contracts with him.
In an interview with the ABC, Communications Union Secretary Joan Doyle — the union representative for postal workers — cast shame on Australia Post for turning a blind eye on the problem.
In response, Australia’s Post Managing Director Ahmed Fahour also told the ABC that the organisation would leave no stone unturned when it came to cooperating with authorities and launching its own internal investigation over the matter.
This is not the first time an international student college was involved in this type of scandal.
A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson confirmed it had investigated two entities who provided labour to Australia Post in 2013 but at the time “found no evidence of any non-compliance with the Fair Work Act.”
Since news broke of the alleged crime syndicate however, the Fair Work Ombudsman has “commenced another investigation into whether there is serious non-compliance in this sector and has met with both the CEPU and the Australian Federal Police”.
Any international student or worker who has been affected by this scandal can contact www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance. A free interpreter service for those from non-English speaking backgrounds is available by calling 13 14 50 and information about workplace laws is translated into 27 different languages at www.fairwork.gov.au/languages.