Report Reveals Exploitation of 457 Migrants Workers

October 19, 2013

Report Reveals Exploitation of 457 Migrants Workers

Popularly known as the "king of visas" for immigration by some migration agents, the 457 visa program is a huge hit among people seeking to migrate to Australia. However, as a recent article in the ABC News reveals, employers are exploiting unsuspecting migrant employees using the 457 visa program.

Skilled cook to causal cleaner

"The [migration] agent told me that I could earn $50,000 per year, but actually it's just $15 per hour," says Nguyen Dung, a Vietnamese migrant to Australia quoted in the ABC News article.

"I have a certificate of chef, he [the migration agent] gave me a job in a restaurant, and so I thought I can work as a chef, but actually I was a kind of cleaner," Mr Nguyen is quoted in the article.

Hospitality sector sees worst exploitation

Ironically, hospitality has been identified by the Australian Institute of Criminology as a sector which sees worst cases of worker exploitation, says Jennifer Burn, the director of Anti-Slavery Australia at University of Technology Sydney, also quoted by ABC News in the report.

Despite passage of new law outlawing such exploitative practices as forced labour, deceptive recruitment and also debt bondage; Ms Burn says, the most "vulnerable sectors include the hospitality industry, workers in construction and in some of the regional, seasonal work.”

Reflecting a similar trend, as recent as last week, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) nabbed three Australian nationals on charges of trafficking and exploitation of four Filipino men. The four men were housed in poor-quality accommodation, provided sub-standard meal and forced into unpaid domestic labour.  

Even a recent study among Indian migrant workers who arrived in Australia under the 457 visas, has found that the highly vulnerable group are individuals working in small establishments like restaurants.

Employers breach 457 visa scheme terms

The ABC News report quotes the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Jenny Lambert saying that the Immigration Department needs to increase its enforcement activities, particularly because dodgy employers are undermining support for the whole 457 visa scheme.

Typically, as in the case of Mr Nguyen, ABC News says, employers routinely breach employment conditions as required under the 457 visa scheme.

Mr Nguyen’s pay, the article says, was clearly below the minimum wage requirement of $20 per hour for casual workers. His salary structure also breached another key 457 visa requirement. Designed to prevent employers from misusing the 457 visa scheme to recruit cheap workers aboard, employees under the scheme are expected to have an earning of at least $53,000 a year.

As for Mr Nguyen, the report says, after about five months of part-time cleaning, he was asked to work in the kitchen. However, when he asked for a pay-hike, he was sacked.

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