The head of an IT firm who has been accused of exploiting unpaid interns has accused young Australians of being lazy.
Samran Habib, founder of DFSM Consulting, was featured in a recent story published by news.com.au, in which he denied any wrongdoing by using interns that he didn’t pay to help him build his websites.
He went on to make the extraordinary claim that young Aussies would “rather work at Bunnings” than putting in the hard yards to build their career.
Interns made to do work for free
Concerns were first raised by 19 year-old intern Asastasiya Tsymay, who told news.com.au that she believed the interns should be paid for the work they were doing for Mr Habib.
Twenty six interns helped build websites for Mr Habib’s web development company.
“What we’re doing should be paid. We’re not really assisting an employee, we’re doing an entire project, pretty much starting a new business. It’s a lot of website design work, we have to design the whole website ourselves, do all of the market research, it’s just so much work,” she said.
She said the interns, aged between 19-25, were a mix of digital marketing, design, film and media students and graduates.
Split into a number of smaller groups, each working on a different project, they attended the office once or twice a week and were expected to work remotely up to 25 hours per week.
“We’re only interns, we’re not supposed to be expected to do so much work and it’s all unpaid.” she said.
“It’s really unfair. I’ve spoken to my team and they’re all very frustrated and discouraged. They think it’s unfair how he’s putting so much pressure and expecting so much work from us for free.”
No guarantee of a job
Ms Tsymay said Mr Habib promised a job at the end of the three months, but only for “the best candidates who I’ve seen the best performance from”.
“To be honest I’m not even interested,” she said. “I don’t want to work for a boss like that.”
After being contacted by media outlets, Mr Habib unexpectedly cancelled the internship program.
Mr Habib denied exploiting anyone or benefiting from their work, saying it was “draining a lot of my time and energy” to train them. He said the projects they were working on were “redundant projects”.
Aussies would rather work at Bunnings than advancing their career
Mr Habib, who came to Australia from Pakistan in 2014, said he started the internship program to give something back to the community and help tackle youth unemployment.
He said the interns were given laptops, work spaces and office keys and there was “no compulsion” to work a set number of hours per week.
“I’m not getting any commercial benefit, it’s for their own good. If they think I’m exploiting them I should draw a line, let them know it’s not a good way to pay someone back who is giving you a favour,” Mr Habib said.
If the interns felt their work was “so valuable” that it deserved payment, he said, they should have come to him directly and he would have considered it.
“I’ll put a hold on this program. I don’t have any incentive to give Australians the job if they don’t appreciate it. These Aussies would rather work in a warehouse, a bar, a restaurant, or a Bunnings than do hard work, learn some skills and do some unpaid internships to advance their career.”
When should interns be paid
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said if people on work experience are doing work that a paid employee would normally do, then they probably should be paid.
“Interns and people on work experience are there to learn, and observe and gain skills, they are not there to do the hard yakka of the business,” he said.
“The law is a little fuzzy, but basically, if you are doing work that is benefiting the business, and it is work that a paid employee would normally do, then you should probably be paid.
“Unfortunately too many employers exploit keen young workers who want to get their foot in the door and start their career.”
Law graduate awarded $18,000 after being exploited on work experience
Recently, law graduate Tomy Wirawan told the Queensland government’s wage theft inquiry that he was promised a position at a suburban Brisbane law firm after completing three months of work experience.
During the work experience, he completed work for the firm, including banking, conveyancing and title searches. He also performed IT duties for the law practice.
At the end of the three month probation period, instead of being offered a paid position, the firm told Mr Wirawan that he was no longer wanted.
Industrial Relations Claims took on his case, and negotiated an $18,000 settlement for Mr Wirawan.
“I felt betrayed. This is not how people should be treated,” Mr Wirawan told the inquiry.
If you are being exploited on an internship or work experience program, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on 1300 853 837.
For the latest workplace news, please follow our page on Facebook.