The inaugural meeting of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, held on 21 October 2016, has agreed to a program of action guaranteeing a more proactive approach is taken to dealing with exploitation of migrant workers in Australia’s workplaces.
Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, established the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce to bolster the Government’s efforts to protect at-risk workers.
The taskforce, chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO, includes representatives from a broad range of agencies, ensuring collaboration and a whole-of-government approach. The effectiveness of this approach is already evident with the taskforce agreeing 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,” Minister 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 informed 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 who 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.
The taskforce will monitor progress by 7-Eleven in rectifying its breaches. 7-Eleven has a moral obligation to rectify underpayments to employees in its network as quickly as possible.
Minister Cash said it was a very encouraging start to the taskforce’s work.
"The taskforce will focus on action and results. Compliance or regulatory weaknesses that allow exploitation cases to occur will be a key focus,” Minister Cash said.
"Exploitation of any worker in Australian workplaces will not be tolerated by this Government.
"Overseas workers are potentially more susceptible to exploitive practices, which is why we are introducing stronger measures to maintain the integrity of their working experience in Australia.”
The Migrant Workers’ Taskforce delivers on the Government’s election commitment and is part of an overall policy to protect vulnerable workers and help ensure better workplaces 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: www.fairwork.gov.au/tipoff
The Chair of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce has released a public statement which is available here: https://www.employment.gov.au/migrant-workers-taskforce