Australian Police arrest trio for “exploiting foreign students” as cheap postal delivery drivers
The Australian Federal Police have arrested three men who allegedly ran two government-subsidised training colleges that hired out its foreign students to work as sub-contractors for Australia Post on sub-standard wages. Baljit “Bobby” Singh, Rakesh Kumar and Mukesh Sharma are suspected of providing fake student visas to the workers, which enabled them to obtain security clearances to work at Australia Post.
Singh and Kumar owned St Stephens Institute of Technology in Melbourne, while Sharma ran the Symbiosis Institute of Technical Education in Footscray.
The police allege that the “students” paid up to AUS $10,000 to attend the Melbourne college, but received no proper training.
The St Stephens Institute website says that the college offers Business, English, IT and Management courses, but there are no details about class timetables or term dates. Post&Parcel was unable to contact the college on the listed telephone number. The website for the Symbiosis Institute of Technical Education was down this morning.
Joan Doyle, the Victorian Secretary of the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union (CEPU), told The Australian newspaper that Singh had at least 16 post and parcel delivery contracts with Australia Post delivering to nearly 20,000 customers. She added that labour hire companies associated with Singh had provided about 100 workers with student visas to work full time, in contravention of visa conditions restricting work to 20 hours a week.
Doyle also said that the union had flagged up its concerns about Singh to Australia Post: “We reported him to Australia Post in 2012 for underpaying his workers but nothing happened.”
Australia Post is responding now, however. Group Chief Operating Officer of Australia Post, Ewen Stafford, commented: “We will absolutely not stand for any improper or illegal behaviour by contractors and, as a result, we have terminated all contracts with the delivery contractor involved in this investigation.”
Singh, Kumar and Sharma are expected to be charged with conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to influence a government official for allegedly using false documents to register the training colleges and for dealing with the proceeds of crime.
As previously reported, the Australian media -notably ABC’s 7.30 – have been focusing on claims that post and parcel drivers hired by Australia Post’s contractors are being underpaid on a “widespread” basis.