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Further reform needed as alarming number of migrant workers face discrimination

Unions NSW 2 mins read

More than one-fifth of migrant workers were paid or offered a lower salary because of their nationality, according to a survey of 1,200 migrant workers released today by Unions NSW and the Migrant Workers Centre.

An additional one-third of respondents also reported being offered inferior wages because they were on temporary visas.

The research reveals an alarming proportion of migrant workers are being shortchanged at a time when Australia faces chronic labour shortages. Despite the Commonwealth Government recently announcing a raft of positive reforms to improve the bargaining power of migrant workers, the further changes are needed to prevent

Other key findings include:

  • 19% of respondents lost an opportunity to be promoted at work because of their visa status
  • 16% reported that they had had a job application rejected because of their nationality
  • 37% of respondents were paid or offered a lower salary because of their visa type
  • 15% had experienced workplace bullying because of their visa status or nationality

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said unequal working conditions and racial discrimination against migrant workers were unacceptable.

“It’s alarming and disheartening to see so many migrant workers facing barriers, and denied work opportunities and fair pay because of their visa status or nationality. It’s all the more baffling that this is happening at a time when industries are crying out for workers as they experience critical labour shortages,” Mr Morey said.

“You know the system stinks and is blatantly unjust when more than one-third of migrant workers are told that job applications from permanent residents are prioritised. You know conditions have to improve when workers tell us they’re being bullied in their workplaces because of their nationality or visa status.

“It’s encouraging to see the Albanese Government is taking these issues seriously by introducing safeguards for migrant workers on temporary visas and tougher penalties for dodgy bosses. Workers will feel more confident reporting abuse and fight for their rights when a ‘firewall’ is created between the Department of Home Affairs and Fair Work Ombudsman.

“But these reforms to better protect migrant workers must only be the beginning. We need to scrap the student visa working hours cap, streamline skills recognition, safeguard whistleblowers and rollout cultural integration programs. We need a more inclusive, fair job market where workers are valued for their skills, not disadvantaged based on where they come from.”

Matt Kunkel, CEO of the Migrant Workers Centre said:

‘Improving visa security and safeguarding pathways to permanency are essential first steps in ensuring migrant workers can raise issues of inequality in the workplace. Overcoming discriminatory wage suppression based on nationality or visa status will help lift wages for every worker in Australia.

‘Visa insecurity is inherent within our migration system. Many migrants are forced to choose between enforcing their workplace rights and maintaining their chance of permanent settlement. This allows unscrupulous employers to game the system and pay workers less than they are entitled to."

Mark Morey 0425 231 812

Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032

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