MANY international students have lost up to three weeks of pay following news that Swan Services has gone into administration. Vivian Tan reports.
The collapse of Swan Services, one of Australia’s biggest cleaning companies last week has left thousands of employees, many of whom are international students, jobless and unpaid.
The bankruptcy of the Sydney-based company terminated the employment of all staff and has left $1.6 million worth of unpaid employee entitlements.
A percentage of the workers will be eligible for the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, a Federal Government scheme which provides certain entitlements to those whose employers have gone out of business.
However, this service is only accessible to Australian citizens, or holders of a permanent visa or a special category visa.
Around half of Swan Service’s Victorian workers, who are international students on temporary visas, have lost up to three weeks of pay with no possible remuneration in sight. Meld has approached the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for comment.
“They’re wondering how they’ll pay their tuition fees, their rent, even (for) their food. It’s a terrible situation.” – Jess Walsh, United Voice.
Jess Walsh, Victorian state secretary of the union United Voice is calling on the Federal Government to offer international students access to the Fair Entitlements Guarantee.
Many international students struggle to support themselves and turn to part-time occupations with flexible hours, such as cleaning. These jobs manage to assist them with paying for tuition fees, rent, food and other basic expenses.
”They’re wondering how they’ll pay their tuition fees, their rent, even (for) their food. It’s a terrible situation,” Ms Walsh said.
Earlier this year, United Voice launched a campaign to renew the Clean Start Agreement, a landmark agreement that increased wages by almost 20 per cent and provided for fairer workloads and more job security.
“International students represent an enormous boost for our economy. But they are not just a cash cow. They are people with rights, and as a community we all have the responsibility to ensure they are treated properly,” Ms Walsh said.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe was present at the campaign’s launch and stressed the campaign is not only about fair wages and rights but also about the worker’s dignity.
“Relationships are fundamentally important between employers and employees. This campaign is about winning and to win and win again,” he explained.
To help international students better understand their rights, United Voice has created a Get Respect Facebook Page that answers questions about studying, working and living in Australia.