There needs to be better communication with visa holders working in Australia so that they know their rights and entitlement, according to the taskforce set up by the Government to look into exploitation.
It is well known that overseas workers in industries like agriculture, hospitality, retail and restaurants face being paid less and made to work longer hours by some unscrupulous employers. This can also affect students and backpackers.
The Migrant Workers Taskforce has issued a report following its latest meeting saying that it has now reviewed all existing communication activities with visa holders and conclude that barriers exist in getting information over.
Also, those who find themselves being exploited are often afraid of coming forward for fear that their visa will be taken away and some have been forced to overstay their visa and fear deportation.
The taskforce says more needs to be done and employers found to be taking advantage are not being dealt with enough sufficiently. Workers will be encourages to contact agencies like the Fair Work Ombudsman anonymously and an online tool will be set up for them to provide information.
‘Importantly, they will be able to provide information through the online reporting tool in their own language. The new reporting tool will help in both assisting people and allowing us to better understand the scope and scale of the issue,’ said Professor Allan Fels, chairman of the taskforce.
He also announced that there will be a new reporting protocol agreed between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for visa holders and joint research to test the most effective way of communicating with visa holders to ensure messaging on workplace entitlements is simple, clear and useful.
The Taskforce also agreed that while a general amnesty from migration law is not appropriate, where temporary visa holders with a work entitlement attached to their visa may have been exploited, and provided they have reported their circumstances to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the DIBP will generally not cancel a visa, detain or remove those individuals.
But they will have to undertake to abide by visa conditions in the future and as long as there is no other basis for visa cancellation such as on national security, character, health or fraud grounds.
For any temporary visa holder who has no work entitlement attached to their visa, the Department will make no commitment other than to consider each case on its merits.
‘While the overwhelming majority of employers comply with workplace laws, the message to those who seek to exploit their workers is very clear: such behaviour will not be tolerated by this Government. Such employers will be targeted, investigated and penalised,’ Fels added.
He also confirmed that Taskforce Cadena, a joint operational taskforce headed by the Australian Border Force and the Fair Work Ombudsman, has continued to target people involved in organised visa fraud, illegal work and the exploitation of foreign workers over the past few months.
‘The Taskforce is tackling serious cases of migrant worker exploitation, with a specific focus on rogue labour hire organisations including those operating off-shore. Future efforts will go towards prevention of serious exploitation by working with partner agencies in other countries,’ he said.
As of 12 January 2017, Taskforce Cadena has received 267 allegations for investigation and completed 13 operations, uncovering evidence of serious wrong doing, including illicit drug, illicit firearms and proceeds of crime offences. ‘The Taskforce strongly endorses the focus of these enforcement actions being on the organisations alleged to be responsible for worker exploitation,’ Fels concluded.