Taskforce announced to protect overseas workers in Australia

by Ray Clancy on October 14, 2016

in Jobs in Australia

A new migrant workers taskforce has been launched in Australia to ensure that overseas workers are protected from exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

Professor Allan Fels will lead the new taskforce, which will provide expert advice on measures that will deliver better protections for overseas workers.

Foreign Workers DuskThe Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, said the taskforce will bolster the Government’s efforts to crack down on employers seeking to take advantage of migrant workers and deliver better protections for all workers.

‘A number of recent high-profile cases where vulnerable migrant workers have been underpaid and exploited at work have exposed unacceptable gaps in the system. While the Government acknowledges that the majority of employers do the right thing by their employees, we will not tolerate exploitation in Australian workplaces,’ she added.

She pointed out that the exploitation of migrant workers affects a range of industries, and in recent cases it has become clear that some employers have blatantly ignored their responsibilities under Australian law.

Revelations of exploitation within some 7-ELEVEN franchises highlighted the need for further protections for workers and higher penalties for those found to have breached workplace laws.

The taskforce will monitor progress of 7-ELEVEN in rectifying its breaches but will also be tasked with identifying regulatory and compliance weaknesses that have led to such incidences of widespread exploitation.

Cash said that the taskforce will also support effective ongoing collaboration between agencies to ensure that efforts to stamp out exploitation work. ‘Migrant workers make a vital contribution to Australia and we have a responsibility to ensure they continue to see Australia as an attractive place to study, visit and work,’ she pointed out.

‘We know that overseas workers are potentially more susceptible to exploitive practices, which is why we must introduce stronger measures to maintain the integrity of their working experience in Australia,’ she added.

Last year the Government also established the Ministerial Working Group on Protecting Vulnerable Visa Holders to develop strategies to protect vulnerable migrant workers in Australia.

Cash said other steps are being taken to crackdown on employers who underpay workers and who fail to keep proper employment records. A new higher penalty category of ‘serious contraventions’ will be introduced, and will apply to any employer that has intentionally ripped off workers, regardless of the employer’s size.

New provisions that capture franchisors who fail to deal with exploitation by their franchisees are being introduced and the powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman are being boosted so that it can more effectively deal with employers who intentionally exploit workers by compelling them to produce information and answer questions.

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