The Fairwork ombudsman is trying to make ‘inroads’ into migrant communities through its newly appointed team of Community Engagement Officers, whose aim is to protect foreign workers on the one hand and help deport illegal workers they find along the way, on the other.
The FWO says its recently launched program aims to “foster new relationships with international student bodies and multicultural communities…to ensure migrant workers, overseas workers, international students and employers are aware of their workplace rights and responsibilities,” declared the statement from the FWO.
The program will also be used to uncover illegal workers. In June, the Fair Work Ombudsman joined with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to form Taskforce Cadena to jointly combat the incidence of fraud and exploitation involving foreign workers in Australia. One of the stated aims of Taskforce Cadena is to utilise intelligence from a range of sources to identify and investigate major targets of interest.
The FWO statement noted that visa-holders now account for 11 per cent of all requests for assistance received by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $1.6 million in underpaid wages and entitlements for visa-holders – up from $1.1 million in 2013-14.
FWO Ombudsman, Ms Natalie James said that the Fair Work Ombudsman has been active in this area for many years and understands that visa holders can face a number of barriers to understanding and enforcing their workplace rights. “Youth, language and cultural differences, concerns about their visa status all contribute to these barriers and can also make them more vulnerable to exploitation,” she said.
“We are particularly concerned about the treatment of visa-holders by labour-hire contractors operating in the horticulture and poultry processing sectors. We are also conscious that exploitation of visa-holders is a persistent issue in Australia in industries known to employ high numbers of overseas workers, such as hospitality, cleaning, convenience stores and trolley collectors.”
Source: Migration Alliance