Chinatown Community Rallies Against Wage Theft
Written by: Ned K. on 7 February 2021
A violent attack by a manager at a Chinese cafe/restaurant in Chinatown Adelaide against a worker exposing wage theft sparked two Chinatown community rallies in the first week of February. The Chinese worker was hit in the face, knocked to the ground and kicked by the manager for demanding she be paid the Award wage instead of the $12 per hour casual rate she received!
This incident was filmed by another worker and went on social media. Not only did it spark the arrest and charge of assault against the manager, it sparked an outpouring of support for the woman worker and two rallies against wage theft.
The rallies were organised by two migrant groups, Fair Go SA and SA Labour Info Hub, with support from the Working Women's Center, SA Unions and affiliates and progressive Upper House Labor MP Irene Pnevmatikos.
The most important aspect of the rallies was the boldness, bravery and determination of the Chinese migrant workers who told their stories to the press and rally participants. Some were bold enough to identify themselves by name and their status as temporary overseas students from mainland China. One young overseas student said that research showed wage theft or wage swindle as it is sometimes also called was not just a problem in Adelaide's Chinatown. There are an estimated 170,000 migrant workers in Australia being paid as little as $12 per hour. In fact, one case involved an overseas student being paid $1 per hour!
Another spokesperson from Fair Go SA said that many migrant workers in Chinatown were reluctant to speak out because the employers blacklisted workers who they called "trouble makers" just for demanding their minimum rights under bosses’ laws!
However, the tide was turning and the very existence of the rallies in support of the young worker was a warning to employers and governments that wage theft and associated violence or threats of violence against migrant women workers would no longer be tolerated.
Migrant workers and migrant women workers in particular are a leading force within the working class in Australia in the fight for an independent and socialist Australia.
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