Taskforce to Take Action To Protect Migrant Workers
31 October 2016 at 8:45 am
A newly established Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, set up by the federal government, has agreed to a program of action to deal with the exploitation of migrant workers in Australia’s workplaces.
Minister for Employment Senator Michaelia Cash said the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce was set up to bolster the government’s efforts to protect at-risk workers.
Chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO, the taskforce includes representatives from a broad range of agencies and will run for 18 months.
Senator Cash said the inaugural meeting of the taskforce agreed to four priority areas for action.
- better communication with visa holders
- stronger enforcement
- prevention and redress of exploitation
- policy frameworks and regulatory settings.
“This is a pleasing first step in securing better, long-term outcomes for migrant workers in our workplaces,” Cash said.
“I am confident that the taskforce will make a real difference to the lives of migrant workers as it actions its comprehensive work program.”
At the meeting the department of employment told the taskforce of the government’s intention to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 to protect vulnerable workers by:
- increasing penalties, including introducing a new serious contravention penalty for deliberate or systemic exploitation
- strengthening the evidence gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman and expressly prohibiting providing false or misleading information to Fair Work inspectors
- introducing new provisions to capture franchisors which fail to deal with exploitation by their franchisees
- expressly prohibiting behaviour in which an employer pays the correct wages to an employee but then forces them to repay an amount.
Senator Cash said revelations of exploitation within some 7-Eleven franchises had highlighted the need for further protections for workers and higher penalties for those found to have breached workplace laws.
“The taskforce will monitor progress of 7-Eleven in rectifying its breaches but will also be tasked with identifying regulatory and compliance weaknesses that have led to such incidences of widespread exploitation,” she said.
“The taskforce will focus on action and results. Compliance or regulatory weaknesses that allow exploitation cases to occur will be a key focus.
“Exploitation of any worker in Australian workplaces will not be tolerated by this government.
“Overseas workers are potentially more susceptible to exploitative practices, which is why we are introducing stronger measures to maintain the integrity of their working experience in Australia.”
Workers with a complaint should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for assistance on 13 13 94 or through the anonymous tip-off service.