Official figures reveal extent of abuse of temporary visa workers

by Ray Clancy on June 9, 2015

in Australia

The latest data from an Australian workplace organisation shows the extent of the abuse of foreign workers on 457 visas with one in five underpaid or employed in jobs they should not be doing.

The latest round of nationwide monitoring by the Fair Work Ombudsman found evidence of suspected exploitation in the cases of 20% of 560 migrant workers examined between October and January this year.


The Fair Work Ombudsman said that its latest reports have identified more than 100 incidents of migrant workers being underpaid

The figures are published during a major investigation into the exploitation of 457 visa workers and those on working holiday visas.

The Fair Work Ombudsman said that its latest monthly audit reports have identified more than 100 incidents of migrant workers being underpaid, in some cases tens of thousands of dollars or not performing jobs in line with their visa requirements.

More than 100 cases have been referred to the Immigration Department for further investigation, while the Ombudsman has launched independent investigations into two cases for violations of the Fair Work Act.

‘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,’ said Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon.

Visa holders now accounting for one in every 10 calls to the Fair Work Ombudsman for help and in the last three years, the agency has dealt with over 6,000 requests for assistance from visa holders. At the same time it has recovered more than $4 million in outstanding wages and entitlements.

An example being investigated is of two Taiwanese backpackers aged in their 20s with 417 working holiday visas allegedly underpaid almost $40,000 while working as hairdressers in Adelaide between September 2013 and May last year.

They were allegedly being paid at an average rate of less than $10.50 an hour when under Australia’s Hair and Beauty Industry Award, they were entitled to receive more than $17 an hour for normal hours and up to $38 an hour for weekend, overtime and public holiday work.

Spokesman Natalie James said legal action has been initiated after the business refused to co-operate. ‘Our inspectors made repeated efforts to engage with this business operator to try to resolve the underpayment matter outside the court, but were not able to secure sufficient co-operation,’ she explained.

The firm faces maximum penalties of up to $10,200 per contravention and the Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for full back payment of the alleged underpayments, which remain outstanding.

James said that employers should be aware that the Fair Work Ombudsman treats underpayment of overseas workers very seriously and 417 visa holders have emerged as a strong priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman. Their wages and conditions are also the subject of a national inquiry launched last August.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

TonyPearson June 11, 2015 at 2:28 am

The figures do NOT show that one in five 457 visa holders are underpaid or employed in jobs they should not be doing. The report indicates only 100 cases have been referred to DIBP out of 560 cases where a complaint had been made.


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