SDA Submission: The effectiveness of the current temporary skilled visa system

Published on: Dec 10 2018

The SDA recently made a submission to the Senate Inquiry regarding the enforcement of skilled visa arrangements. In particular, the SDA believes the current methods of enforcing proper wages and conditions for overseas workers is grossly inadequate.

In recent years a series of reports have exposed a large number of workers in the retail and fast food industries who have been exploited or are being exploited by their employers in what can only be described as wage fraud scandals. Many of these workers are international students or backpackers and/or overseas workers in Australia working on temporary skilled visas.

As well as underpayment of wages and abuse of working conditions by employers, some of these overseas workers have also been subjected to workplace bullying and other forms of harassment and intimidation. 

They have also been subjected to other forms of exploitative behaviour such as having to accept deductions from their pay for all sorts of reasons such as payment for board and lodgings or even to meet alleged migration agent fees. Some have been subjected to sham contracting arrangements where a labour hire contractor has sought to claim a worker is an independent contractor when in fact they are not.

It is quite clear that the current temporary skilled visa system is significantly flawed and there is a range of actions which should be taken to address this issue, such as:

  • Remove the fear workers have in regard to reporting by providing amnesty for workers being exploited and effective whistleblower protection for those who report breaches.
  • All workers, including those on temporary work visas, must have a right at law to speak to and or join a trade union.
  • Those found guilty of wage fraud should face severe penalties including in serious cases gaol and/or disqualification as company directors.
  • The Fair Work Ombudsman needs to have its resources increased so that that they can more effectively pursue breaches.

Click here to read the submission in full.

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