Additional protections make it harder for big business to exploit migrant workers

Published: 07/06/2023
Category: Workers rights
Published: 07/06/2023
Category: Workers rights

For too long, businesses have been able to get away with widespread exploitation of migrant workers. Earlier this year, it was reported that around 75 per cent of migrant workers in Australia have experienced wage theft.  

Any wage theft – let alone 75 per cent – is simply unacceptable. A piece of good news is that the Albanese Government have started to tackle this systemic problem by clamping down on exploitative businesses. 

A lot of these dodgy businesses use visa conditions as a way to force migrant workers into dangerous and unfair workplaces. One migrant worker shared this experience in the recent Insecure By Design report from the Migrant Workers’ Centre.  

“Migrant workers hardly get a fair pay in Australia because bosses think it’s okay to treat temporary visa holders differently from Australian workers. It’s unfair,” they said.  

“And racism is everywhere! At a construction site, for example, they didn’t allow me to park at the on-site parking lot where all my Australian colleagues parked their cars for free.” 

Although the worker had a master’s degree, they weren’t able to get employment in their industry and were paid below the minimum wage at $12 per hour. Their friend wasn’t paid at all.  

“When he tried to get his payment, the boss said… that no one would care because he wasn’t Australian!”

No excuses for businesses doing the wrong thing

The changes will mean: 

  • Businesses who use visa conditions as a way to force migrants to work with exploitative workplace practice can face criminal offences. 
  • Businesses who are found to have seriously or repeatedly exploited migrant workers will be stopped from employing more temporary migrant workers for a period of time.

The Government has also committed to co-designing whistleblower protections for temporary migrant workers with unions and other stakeholders. Whistleblower protections would mean that temporary migrant workers can take action on breaches of their workplace rights without jeopardising their visa.  

After years of inaction by the Coalition Government, it’s good to see the Albanese Government begin to take action to protect migrant workers.  

Migrant workers should be able to enforce their workplace rights without jeopardising their ability to stay in the country.

Union workplaces are safe workplaces

These new protections are just one way union members are working to ensure the fair treatment of workers, no matter where they’re from.  

Recently, union members have successfully won:  

With a movement of almost two million workers across Australia, together we get things done. That means better wages than non-union members and the workplace conditions you deserve.  

Workers in unions won’t stop showing up until there is equality, and that means ensuring fair wages and conditions in all workplaces and for all workers. 

Take control of your working life

Are you a migrant worker who needs support at work? Contact the Migrant Workers Centre VIC, Migrant Workers Hub NSW or the Australian Unions Support Centre.

Additional protections make it harder for big business to exploit migrant workers

Additional protections make it harder for big business to exploit migrant workers