After a series of high profile cases becoming public, immigration authorities in Australia are warning that that the exploitation of foreign workers can have a lasting negative impact on the country.

Australian communities and individuals can be affected by the exploitation and anyone aware of people being treated illegally are urged to contact the Border Watch Allegations and Referrals group which is part of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).


Foreign students, back backers, working holiday makers and other individuals can also contact the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) which has been highlighting a number of cases recently of people being underpaid, being forced to work long hours and being made to do jobs other than those advertised or for which a visa was obtained.

The FWO has most recently launched court action against the franchisee of two Subway outlets in Sydney for allegedly underpaying a young Chinese woman more than $16,000. The worker, a casual food and beverage attendant aged in her late 20s, was in Australia on a Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa at the time.

Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors investigated after she lodged a request for assistance. It is alleged that inspectors found she had been paid flat rates of $14 to $14.50 for all hours worked when she was entitled to receive minimum rates of more than $18, plus casual loading, for ordinary hours and penalty rates of up to $52.22 on public holidays.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that the exploitation of workers in franchises continues to be a concern. She has welcomed the Government's proposed new laws relating to underpayments within franchise networks.

She pointed out that in an environment where the public are demanding greater transparency and accountability by well-known franchise brands, it is crucial that franchise service networks are proactive in ensuring they have systems in place to promote and ensure compliance.

Signs to look out for that might indicate a company is participating in the exploitation of foreign workers include the company being able to seriously undercut competitors and workers are underpaid or paid irregularly.

Officials also look out for cases where workers seem to be living in substandard conditions, workers seem afraid or anxious and company owners or directors enjoy an extravagant lifestyle that doesn't appear to match their income.

Anyone who is aware of an individual, business or employer who might be facilitating visa fraud or illegal work is urged to contact Border Watch Allegations and Referrals and they can also report them online. This can be done anonymously.