Alan Fels said it, so it must be so:
- The Turnbull Government’s Migrant Worker Taskforce chief, Allan Fels, said major reforms were needed to confront the growing problem.
“There is enough evidence to say that it is systemic,” Mr Fels said.
“Significant numbers are really exploited.”
Finally in response to the 7-Eleven scam, where workers were being paid as little as $5 per hour, the Government has established from early October a Migrant Worker Taskforce with Alan Fels at the helm.
The Taskforce will run for 18 months. From the Government media release, other measures include:
- Increasing penalties that apply to employers who underpay workers and who fail to keep proper employment records. A new higher penalty category of ‘serious contraventions’ will be introduced, and will apply to any employer that has intentionally ripped off workers, regardless of the employer’s size.
- Introducing new provisions that capture franchisors who fail to deal with exploitation by their franchisees.
- Delivering a $20 million funding increase for the capabilities and workforce of the Fair Work Ombudsman.
- Strengthening the powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman so that it can more effectively deal with employers who intentionally exploit workers by compelling them to produce information and answer questions.
What is missing seems to be a means of putting offending labour hire firms out of business.
The quote at the top of the post comes from a report on an undercover investigation that
- infiltrated the underworld of illegal workers and labour hire syndicates operating in northern Victoria and southern NSW.
Dozens of illegal labourers on the farms said they were being underpaid by about $9 an hour to pick and package fresh produce that ends up being sold by Australia’s big supermarkets.
Malaysian journalist Saiful Hasam was paid $110, which was reduced to $40 after $70 rent was taken out, for working 23 hours over several days.
In June this year ABC’s Background Briefing did a program Taken to the cleaners, which suggested “a huge labour black market in cleaning and hospitality ripping off international students.”
Most of the program is padded with the details of a cleaning company scam which seemed to systematically stop paying people towards the end of their visa period, on the expectation that students would not be able to follow up when they returned to the country of origin.
The program interviewed the Redfern Legal Centre which specialises in international student cases, and reports widespread scamming.
There is a feeling that property and business owners hiring service firms know that the workers are being mistreated, but close their eyes.
At risk is our international reputation and a $19 billion tertiary education export sector, not to mention horticulture and tourism.
There was another ABC report I can’t find that from memory investigated scam labour hire practices that affected Australian citizens also, and included non-payment, later claiming the worker had volunteered. In many cases people who were clearly wage earners and treated as employees were paid as contractors, to avoid paying on-costs, such as sick leave, holiday leave and super.
It’s hard to be proud of a country where such systemic scams of workers’ rights exist.
I haven’t investigated 457 visa scams, but they are sure to exist.
If you want someone who really goes off about foreign workers, check out Bob Katter, who claims that 620,000 457 visa workers and students come each year, and mostly they don’t go home.
Katter is one of the most diligent users of the Parliamentary Library Service. I would not challenge his facts unless I’d done my research.