Abuse Revealed In 30% Of Migrant Visas

Release date: 30/05/2015

Problems have been highlighted in over 30% of migrant worker visas recently monitored by the Fair Work Ombudsman, new figures show.

Almost one in five migrant workers on 457 visas were not being paid the correct salary or were not working in the job they were brought in to do.

In a further 10% of cases the ombudsman was unable to locate the employers which brought in the worker and in 2% of cases the employer failed to provide information to the ombudsman.
National Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, Tony Sheldon, said the high number of concerns showed abuse of the visa system. “When workers are not paid the salary they were supposed to be paid, when they are not given the job they were promised they are being exploited. When employers cannot be located or when they refuse to provide information to the authorities there is an abuse of the system at play,” he said.
“I reiterate my call for migrant workers to be given mandatory access to trade unions and to be allowed to vote. Only when they have political representation will the government acknowledge there is a problem with the visa system and investigate it properly,” he said.
Figures released to the Transport Workers’ Union under FOI for the period October 2014 to January 2015 show out of 560 cases examined, the Fair Work Ombudsman had concerns over the salary or position of 95 workers. The ombudsman had concerns over both the salary and job of seven workers. The ombudsman was unable to locate the employers of 61 workers and reported that employers were “unable to provide information” on 10 workers.
One case involved an architectural draftsperson brought in who was supposed to receive $85,000 but on inspection was receiving $49,000. Another involved a machine setter who was supposed to be paid $52,000 but was paid $36,000.

1. Enforcement
Despite the hundreds of concerns raised by the Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors in the last year only 28 employers were issued with infringement notices during 2013/2014. No employers were penalised in federal magistrates court. Since 2011 only one employer has been penalised in court over 457-visa infringement.
2. Migrant rights
The Transport Workers’ Union has called for additional rights and safeguards for migrant workers including:

  • The right to vote
  • Mandatory access to union representation upon arrival in Australia so workers know what their rights are and who to go to if they are being exploited.
  • Employers should be forced to cover medical insurance and the public school fees of migrant workers. Currently these costs run to several thousand dollars in some states.
  • Employers must also be forced to get a licence and go on a public register if they want to bring in foreign workers. In a system similar to that in the UK, this will provide a layer of checks on employers to ensure they abide by Australian labour laws.
  • Exploitation and illegal undercutting of wages should become a criminal offence.
3. Additional research
A survey of 1600 employers by Dr Chris Wright and Dr Andreea Constantin University of Sydney Business School reveals one in seven did not have difficulty sourcing local workers but preferred 457 visa holders.

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