Media release | Wednesday, August 2
The federal government is being urged to write into law an ironclad guarantee that migrant workers who report employer exploitation will not have their visas cancelled.
In a report to be launched at parliament today, Unions NSW – along with the Migrant Justice Institute, Migrant Workers Centre, Human Rights Law Centre and Immigration Advice and Rights Centre – have teamed up to call for the introduction of an “exploited worker guarantee”.
The alliance of unions, lawyers and migrant rights groups say this guarantee must be accompanied by a specific “workplace justice visa” to protect against deportation while migrants seek advice and pursue action against exploitative employers.
“Temporary migrants who want to speak up about and escape exploitation do so at the risk of being kicked out of the country. This is because the employer can retaliate by anonymously telling the Department of Home Affairs that the worker is in breach of their visa,” Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said.
“This exploitative power imbalance damages Australia’s migration system and international reputation. It also lets dodgy companies get away with continuing to bring in new workers to exploit.
“We do not bond citizens or permanent residents to their bosses, because that would be unacceptable. So why is it OK when it comes to migrant workers?”
He said that draft reforms that include ministerial discretion to prevent the cancellation of an employee-sponsored or a temporary visa, and hiring restrictions for companies found to have exploited temporary workers, were a good start but must be strengthened.
“The government needs to target directors of companies that greenlight this appalling exploitation. Migrants also need ironclad protection because anything less will have a chilling effect on exploited migrants coming forward,” he said.
The Not Just Numbers: A Blueprint of Visa Protections for Temporary Migrant Workers report details the disturbing treatment of temporary migrant workers such as aspiring chef Sunil.
“They wanted to force me to sign a new contract and told me I had until 6pm and if I didn’t sign, I needed to leave the property … I know that I didn’t do anything wrong. I just raised my voice because they were doing something unfair,” he said.
There is no existing provision for a visa to give exploited migrants residency certainty when they seek justice over workplace exploitation.
The new visa should be under a new “workplace justice” stream created within the existing 408 visa subclass to prevent the singling out of migrants by future employers.
It should be available for up to 12 months and not dependent on an assessment by the department, with certification powers instead handed to employment lawyers and unions.
A press conference will be held with Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, activists and workers at the Mural Hall at 11am.
Georgie Moore 0477 779 928
Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032