According to the ABC – which uncovered the widespread exploitation of 7-Eleven staff in one of its Four Corners investigations – the majority of the company’s staff are foreign students who are on restricted visas.
The visas in question allow the students to work for up to 20 hours per week – however, many of them were being forced to work longer hours than this, which now puts them at risk of deportation.
“Well, clearly it's got to be cleaned up,” said Labor senator Deborah O'Neill. “What I'm calling for is for the Government to actually provide an amnesty for the people who are currently working at 7-Eleven stores who have been caught up in a scam of wage fraud.”
Since 7-Eleven’s exploitations were exposed, the company has announced an independent review into the alleged underpayments.
Alongside this, Labor said it wants the company’s executives to cooperate with an inquiry into visa fraud.
“Every Australian who has ever bought anything at 7-Eleven feels perversely negatively affected by the fact that we've been shopping at a place where people who have been working have been, you know, treated essentially as second-class citizens and have been wage slaves to people who've exploited them,” said O’Neill.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) – the union that covers the industry – has been accused of failing to protect 7-Eleven employees.
“This whole visa, or abuse of the visa system, that appears to be taking place, has meant that employees inside 7-Eleven operated behind a veil of silence,” said the SDA’s general secretary, Gerard Dwyer, in response to those allegations.
The SDA has reportedly set up a hotline and website to help 7-Eleven workers make claims against the company.
“The employees that have put their hands up, I compliment their bravery – and what we've been trying to do in response to that is set up access points for employees outside of their workplace,” Dwyer said.
7-Eleven has agreed to buy out any franchisees who want to sell their stores since the exposé on the retailer’s exploitation was publicised.
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The Labor Party has said that any foreign 7-Eleven employees who breached visa rules while working for one of the franchises should be pardoned.