Enforcement Measures Against Exploitation of Temporary Workers

Australia has implemented measures to safeguard the rights of temporary migrant workers and uphold ethical practices among employers engaging individuals from overseas.

Regardless of their origin, the rights of all workers are deemed equally important within Australia. To reinforce this principle, the government has recently enacted reforms aimed at curtailing the exploitation of temporary labor.

The Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill received unanimous support in Parliament. Effective from 1st July, individuals found exploiting workers based on their visa status will face imprisonment. Furthermore, penalties and fines will triple, and employers found mistreating workers will be prohibited from hiring any temporary visa holder.

This legislative change aligns with the Government’s Migration Strategy, which aims to ensure fair treatment in the workplace, safeguarding the jobs, wages, and conditions of all workers while preventing the exploitation of migrant labour.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, highlighted the benefits of this reform for ethical business owners. He emphasized that such measures would mitigate the impact of competitors who engage in unethical practices such as underpayment of employees to offer lower prices.

The Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill seeks to prevent situations where individuals may endure wage theft but fear reporting it due to deportation concerns, refrain from seeking union assistance, lose access to their passports, or endure poor working conditions in exchange for promises of permanent residency.

Minister Andrew Giles referred to research indicating that up to one in six recent migrants receive wages below the legal minimum. This situation, he argued, forces employers into a dilemma between complying with the law or risking market share in a race to the bottom.

Support for the Initiative

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) expressed its support for the Bill, criticising the exploitation of temporary migrant workers as a prevalent business practice. ACTU President Michele O’Neil emphasised the detrimental impact of such exploitation on all workers and the need to rectify a migration system favouring temporary visas over permanent residency.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Under the new legislation, coercing individuals to breach visa conditions or exploiting workers based on their visa status will constitute criminal offenses. Penalties under the Migration Act will be significantly heightened, with the introduction of ‘prohibition notices’ preventing further hiring of temporary visa holders by non-compliant employers.

The Minister cited a case study where a company faced substantial fines and a two-year ban on sponsoring workers, marking a departure from previous leniency. The new framework ensures stricter consequences, offering a more ethical and competitive environment for employers engaging migrant labour.

Written by Ross Ahmadzai

2 Apr, 2024

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