July 2019 | Promise of training with luxury hotel group entraps visa workers

Date: 7 July 2019

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Every fortnight, Arindam Biswas watched as his boss deposited $1626 into his bank account. Then like clockwork, more than half his fortnightly wages disappeared - reclaimed by his employer as rent for a shared bedroom.

Until late last month, Biswas, from Kolkata, India, was a desk clerk at one of Australia’s most prestigious hotels, the Hydro Majestic in the Blue Mountains. Still shiny from a $30 million facelift, it is part of a luxury hotel chain known as the Escarpment Group, which includes Lilianfels and Echoes in Katoomba, Parklands Country Garden and Lodges in Blackheath and the Convent Hunter Valley.

Biswas was part of the Escarpment Group’s churn of cheap labour from countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam who come to Australia on a 407 Training Visa and are exploited through long hours of unpaid overtime and inflated rents that leave them with little more than $300 a week. Experts including the head of the Morrison government's Migrant Worker watchdog Allan Fels warn the exploitation is going unchecked.

The workers pay more than $6600 for a 52-week internship and are forced to share a small bedroom that their employer rents to them. At $480 a week, the shared room costs $60 more than the market rate for an entire house in the Blue Mountains. It's also more than the $422 charge for a Saturday night stay at the Hydro Majestic in a heritage room with breakfast.

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