Chang Chang, who moved to Australia in 2004, worked at the Camy Shanghai Dumpling and Noodle Restaurant 13 hours a day, six days a week for just A$100 a day.
Despite being grossly underpaid and overworked, Chang only took legal action against his boss after he obtained permanent Australian residency. Like many other Chinese migrant workers abroad, Chang feared that if he sought redress before getting residency, he might lose his job and his employment visa would be revoked.
As CLB shows in its research report on Chinese workers in Singapore, and in our forthcoming report on Japan, the threat of repatriation is one of the most important factors preventing aggrieved workers from seeking redress for rights violations. Workers, unfamiliar with the legal system and the language in the country they are working in, and lacking the social and family support they can rely on back home, are more likely suffer in silence than take legal action against a boss who effectively has the power to send them back to China.
Chang’s case also confirms what we have seen in many other countries where Chinese workers are employed, namely that the exploitative conditions that workers face at home are all too often replicated abroad.
One of stranger aspects of this case, however, was the way the story was reported in the local Murdoch-owned newspaper, the Sunday Herald Sun. Under the headline, “Melburnians may pay for dumpling debacle,” the paper complained that the judgment, which the restaurant owners are appealing, could spell the end of cheap dumplings for the city’s foodies.
Thankfully, the comments subsequently added to article showed that many people in Melbourne do value decent pay for decent work above cheap food. As one commentator pointed out:
What’s more important??? Getting cheap Asian food or making some poor sucker work like a dog for nothing....Don't write this article like it is ripping the public off. This guy deserves every cent, and I hope other dodgey restaurants who are underpaying their staff are listening too.