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Immigration Minister Warns Against Exploiting Migrant Workers in Wake of Further Reforms

Australian businesses have been put on notice about the exploitation of migrant workers during a Law Council of Australia conference.

A speech at last week’s Law Council of Australia Migration Conference saw The Hon Andrew Giles MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, raise issues relating to people on temporary visas.

The speech discussed alleged exploitation of migrant workers, and how this treatment undermines the system and harms the entire workforce – from casual staff to employers.

Giles discussed how policies regarding workplace relations and immigration needed to work hand in hand to address the ongoing issue of temporary migrant workers being exploited by businesses.

Updated Guidelines to Enforcement Around Migrant Worker Rules

Recent reforms to industrial relations laws have resulted in the Government being able to make it a criminal offence for employers to force or unduly influence migrant workers to work in breach of their visa conditions.

The Strengthening Employer Compliance Act was passed by Parliament on 7 February and will commence on 1 July this year. The Act introduces three new criminal offences for using a person’s migration status to exploit them in the workplace and also introduces prohibition measures.

Under The Strengthening Employer Compliance Act, employers who engage in serious, deliberate or repeated forms of non-compliance will be prevented from hiring new workers if they hold a temporary visa.

“The prohibition tool will deliberately seek to disrupt business models predicated on exploitative practices, where employers simply churn through new staff, many of whom are unaware of what they are about to experience,” said Minister Giles.

From July, employers who are barred from sponsoring new workers will also be liable to become prohibited employers and will not be allowed to hire new staff if those workers hold a temporary visa.

Prohibited Businesses to Hear from the Minister

In his speech, The Hon Andrew Giles MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, warned that liable employers should expect communication from his office.

“From July, I will be writing to employers who are liable for prohibition and asking why they should not be prohibited from hiring workers on temporary visas,” he said.

“This will include any employer found to have exploited migrant workers in a Federal Court decision under the Fair Work Act as well as those employers who have been subject to a bar due to a breach of the sponsorship obligations in the Migration Regulations.”

“We now have a legislative framework that is substantially better placed to deter the exploitation of vulnerable workers, improving economic and social opportunities for all Australians.”

Pilot Programs to Test Visa Barriers

Also announced during The Law Council of Australia Migration Conference was the development of two pilot programs to address the visa barriers preventing people from speaking up about possible exploitation.

“The pilot programs will focus on introducing a formal protection against visa cancellation – to give people the confidence they can report wrongdoing and seek redress, even if they have breached a work-based visa condition,” noted Minister Giles.

A second pilot will test the concept of a workplace justice visa, designed to enable temporary migrants to remain in Australia while they seek workplace justice.

Sources: HCAMag, Speech – Law Council of Australia Migration Conference, The Hon Andrew Giles MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs

Related: Ag Community Awaits Updated PALM Scheme Guidelines

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