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Overseas Workers are NOT the Enemy

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by Lisa Johnson

over 1 year ago

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Today I read this article in the SMH.  It’s another story of overseas workers being exploited by a labour hire company / employer.  Whilst it enrages me that this type of exploitation continues to happen, it’s the online comments I want to focus on. All the comments that say “these people are taking jobs from Australian workers!” What the hell.  Are you on drugs? It seems to me that the average Australian worker doesn’t WANT to do the kind of work that these exploited overseas workers are doing.  

How many long term unemployed Australians put their hand up to go and live and work in rural Australia picking fruit?  How many of them are applying for the grave yard shift at the petrol station? Take a good look objective look around you.  Who owns and operates the corner stores, the bread shops, the fish and chip shops?  

Chances are it’s a hard working immigrant family where the kids work after school, where the brothers, the sisters, the parents and grandparents help operate the store.  Hands up everyone who has their pedicures done in shiny salons owned and run by savvy smiling people of South East Asian descent?  Seems we are perfectly happy to have the hard skin on our heels shaved by someone with English as a second language, but reluctant to be the one filing the horny nails on fat old feet. I believe it’s a combination of two things:

  • our consumer demand to pay as little as possible makes it very hard for small business (and primary producers) to make any money. To ensure that we pay less, they have to cut costs.  For retail businesses pretty much the only cost they can cut are wages.  This is why family run businesses, where effectively family workers ‘work’ for free are viable where businesses that employ non family members are not
  • we have a culture of entitlement, where people have been told all their lives that they can be anything that they want to be; and they all want to be rich and comfortable. Young people would rather be unemployed than work at the petrol station or fruit picking on the farm

My partner used to teach trades at TAFE.  He and a large number of colleagues were made redundant a while ago because not enough young people are leaving school and trying to get a trade.  Schools are so busy telling kids to aim for University that we have forgotten to tell good kids that there is worth in metal work and plumbing.  

Apparently, being a tradie is not something to aspire to…it’s something that the kids who can’t achieve ‘greater’ things end up doing.  That attitude may be our greatest shame. So here’s the thing people.  Stop whining about not being able to get a job.  Stop your casual racist complaints about overseas workers ‘taking’ your job.  If you want to get off welfare, then do these two things:

  • Start paying a fair price for products that allows producers and retailers to pay legal wages to staff;
  • Man/Woman up and be prepared to DO the work that overseas workers are doing. Be prepared to do graveyard shifts and rural work.  Get muddy and dirty.  Encourage your kids to consider trades because we need MORE bright young apprentices not fewer

Stop the whinge people.  If you want to work, get out there and work.

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