On Saturday morning when I go to a café to buy a coffee, I do
not want to ask that person what they are getting paid because I am almost
certain the response will be something unlawful.
A freefall to the bottom
The Australian community has an entirely reasonable expectation that
workers in this developed, affluent country will not be exploited. This is a
one of the fundamental objectives of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA, the
Act), that it will protect workers by setting out basic rights and entitlements
in the National Employment Standards (NES) and modern awards.
Fittingly, one of the committee's terms of reference is whether the NES
and modern awards provide an effective floor for workers' wages and conditions.
Evidence presented to the committee, however, shows that employers in some
industries are underpaying workers with such impunity that the question of an
effective floor is almost redundant. In situations where a significant
proportion are not complying with the law, that is the NES or modern awards,
there is no floor—as put by one witness, there is 'just a freefall to the
This chapter looks at alarming evidence presented to the committee on
the underpayment of vulnerable workers, what many submitters deemed to be
outright wage theft.
It is more common than many would imagine, and penalties provided by the
FWA are proving powerless to curb it.
The prevalence of underpayment
Underpayment is so prevalent in some sectors that it can no longer be
considered an aberration; it is becoming the norm. Figures cited below are
alarming. In Victoria alone, it is estimated that 79 per cent of hospitality
employers did not comply with the national award wage system from 2013 to 2016.
The national average for noncompliance is brought lower by findings from
other states, but is still hardly a figure engendering pride. Nationwide, it is
estimated that one in two hospitality works are being illegally paid, with
similar figures available for the retail, beauty and fast food sectors.
FWO hospitality industry audit
A March 2016 report from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) looks at the
hospitality industry, breaking finding down into three categories:
Wave 1: Accommodation/taverns and bars;
Wave 2: Restaurants, cafes and catering; and
Wave 3: Takeaway foods.
The hospitality industry employs mostly vulnerable, low-skilled workers,
with 60.7 per cent having no post school qualification.
Accommodation/taverns and bars
Businesses operating the accommodation, tavern or bar sector were found
to have the highest rates of compliance, with 69 per cent found to be
compliant. Of the remaining 31 per cent, most contraventions were monetary in
A total of 750 audits were conducted, recovering over $367 000 in lost
wages for 629 employees.
Restaurants, cafes and catering
According to the ABR, there were approximately 41 000 businesses in the accommodation
and food services industry in May 2011. The FWO audit looked at 1066 of these
businesses, or approximately 2.6 per cent of the total number, checking for
compliance with wage and record-keeping obligations.
Only 42 per cent were found to be compliant with all requirements, with
most errors relating to wage entitlements, and $1.2 million in lost wages was
recovered on behalf of 2752 employees.
The ABR states that there were over 24 000 businesses in the takeaway
services industry in May 2011. The FWO audit looked at 565 of these businesses,
or almost 2.4 per cent of the registered number, checking for compliance with
wage and record-keeping obligations.
Nationally, only 33 per cent were found to be compliant with all of
their workplace obligations, with the majority of errors relating to
underpayment of wages, incorrect payslips and incorrect or non-payment of weekend
penalty rates. Only 53 per cent of employers were paying their
employees correctly. In total, $582 410 in lost wages was recovered on behalf
of 929 employees, while only six formal cautions and one compliance notice were
Noting that a little under 2.4 per cent of businesses were audited,
these figures suggest that workers are likely losing millions to underpayment.
The next section looks at case studies from this and other sectors.
From the workers' perspective
Ballarat Regional Trades and Labour Council (BRTLC) operates a service
called the Young Workers Legal Centre, which assists young workers and relies
heavily on legal services and lawyers who offer their services on a pro bono
The stories we have received are harrowing and most of them
are reporting cash-in-hand payment, but there are also, as our submission
states, a significant number of under-award payments and various other
breaches—non-payment of entitlements or the lack of applying the award in the
Examples are numerous, but have shared features in that young workers
are vulnerable to exploitation, are not always familiar with the law, and may
be hesitant to report exploitative practices for fear of losing their jobs.
In one cited example, a young man was working at a Caltex service
station when a car drove off without paying for petrol. The worker reported
being distressed because his employer would make him pay for the stolen petrol.
In another case provided by the BRTLC, a young worker reported feeling
powerless to stand up for her legal rights despite being underpaid for years
and knowing that her employer was breaking the law:
Fish and chip shops are particularly bad. I [Brett Edgington,
Secretary, BRTLC] have seen a significant number of young workers from the
Rubicon Street fish and chip shop. Mainly, they are paid between eight and nine
dollars per hour, and mainly they are young people under 19. I spoke to one
girl who had been there for several years, who had started on $8, and because
she had been there for a number of years she went to $9. As far as I know,
there is no WorkCover insurance on those young workers. They are sacked on a
whim, and the really distressing story the young girl told me was that she knew
that what was happening to her was wrong and knew that the payment was wrong.
She looked at me and said, 'Look, if I walked out tomorrow, there are a line of
kids at the door who know what is going on, who will take the job'.
The pressure on young workers is considerable, as it is on workers in regional
Australia more widely. This is in no small part due to high unemployment rates
in regional centres, with BRTLC reporting that a significant portion of people
have no choice but to work in the black, cash-in-hand economy without access to
Often there is no way for workers in these situations to prove that they
were underpaid or exploited in any way. Paper trails are scarce, and employers
ready to deny any involvement with the workers:
It is very difficult to follow-up on this legally because
many times, when you find a worker in this situation, the boss will deny they
have ever been there. In fact, if Fair Work were to follow up, it appears they
never had. There is no paperwork and there is no mention of their name. Some of
these businesses hold cash-in-hand books and some of them do not. It is very
This lack of wage records presents a particular problem when workers try
to put in WorkCover claims. Mr Orry Pilven, a solicitor appearing in a private
capacity, explained that he has difficulty working out earnings owed for the
purposes of WorkCover in such situations.
He added that employers will often exploit young workers' lack of resources and
threaten their future employment prospects:
The first question I get is, 'Won't my employer disparage me
to others and I'll never work again in Ballarat?' That is the threat that is
often made, particularly within an industry: 'Look, we know everyone in town,
and you will never work again. I will put a black mark against your name.' The
other problem, particularly with young or disadvantaged workers, is that they
often do not have the resources to pursue matters. Obviously, well-resourced
employers who are represented by their industry groups know this, and they use
this to their advantage—and often there is no office.
This threat of unemployment is present for workers across sectors and regions:
I imagine you would have a lot of people that are fearful of
raising underpayment issues with their employer, especially if they really need
a job, and especially if they have seen their employer sack their previous
colleagues when such issues are raised. People have mortgages, they have
families, they have bills to pay, and depending where you are at, and what area
you are in, it is pretty hard to get a job. Hearing from our members from here
all the way up the west Wimmera and all the way down to Warrnambool, it is
really hard to get a job.
Furthermore, some employers are suspected of being repeat offenders,
engaging in deliberate underpayment in a 'systemic, highly organised and
externally advised process.' Despite complaints being raised repeatedly, Mr
Brett Edgington, the Secretary of the BRTLC claims that the FWO continues to
assume that underpayments are made in error, and not deliberately.
BRTLC cites examples of cash in hand payments at several Ballarat-based businesses:
The Bryant Family Trust at Gill's Boatshed collects their
till takings every night and saves them up until Thursday. On Thursday, the
money goes into little envelopes, normally of $10 or $15 cash in hand, and the
employees then come and pick them up. I can only assume that the till takings
are then fabricated and the PAYG statements that go off to the ATO are also
incorrect. There is a cash-in-hand book that meticulously records the cash in
hand of that business, so it is not an oversight. This is a systematic,
deliberate act to underpay the workforce both at Gill's Boatshed and at the
Golf House restaurant.
Mr Edgington recounted the experience of a young worker who came through
the Young Workers Legal Centre. The case spent many months in mediation through
the Fair Work system. During this process the employer made an offer to the
young worker which was considerably below the $26 000 she was allegedly owed in
unpaid wages, made on the proviso that the worker would sign a confidentiality
agreement preventing her from discussing the case in future. This, BRTLC
alleged, was not an isolated case.
The committee also discussed the issue with business groups. Representatives
of Commerce Ballarat, for example, suggested that the high reported rates of non-compliance
might be due to a lack of understanding of the law or confusion around
appropriate rates of pay.
Underpayment of temporary migrant workers
The committee tabled a comprehensive report on the plight of temporary
work visa holders in the previous Parliament, in March 2016: A national
disgrace: the exploitation of temporary work visa holders.
This committee refers readers to that detailed report and the conclusions
and recommendations therein.
In the context of this inquiry, the committee received evidence
suggesting that migrant workers are being targeted specifically because they
are vulnerable and unlikely to report exploitative practices. In the health
sector, the committee heard, the practice affects Australian workers as well.
The Australian Nursing Federation reports that Australia's assisted visa
program, which exists to help fill temporary skills shortages which cannot be
met by employing or training Australian workers, is being misused:
The health industry provides a good example where nurses are
employed on assisted visas whilst Australian nursing students who have recently
graduated are unable to find employment in a health service in Victoria.
Unfortunately, many of the people who are employed on assisted visas do not
fully understand their rights in relation to receiving the same wages and
entitlements of Australians employed in the same job, or are unable to raise
their concerns due to their vulnerabilities.
Not only are these workers often unfamiliar with their rights and
entitlements, but the employers who hire them, and particularly those in the
private sector, appear to exhibit limited understanding of their obligations:
In the private sector it is much more difficult for us to
gain a full understanding of exactly how those people are treated. But we have
examples, again, where there are people coming here on visas that do not
necessarily understand their entitlements either. For example, some of those
visas allow for people to get assistance to go home every 12 months and that
type of thing. When I have raised those sorts of things with employers, they
have no knowledge or understanding of that, and neither have the people themselves.
In other sectors the exploitation and abuse of workers on temporary
visas appears to be so widespread it is becoming the norm.
The Salvation Army states that employers seeking fruit pickers, for
example, target migrant workers for exploitation because these workers are
usually very hesitant to pursue their legal entitlements or go to the
authorities, due in large part to their reliance on the employer for work. The
Salvation Army agrees that it can be difficult to prove intent on employers'
part in such cases; however, the evidence is considerable and the examples
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) reports that the Working Holiday
Maker visa has become synonymous with unscrupulous labour hire companies,
exploitation and abuse. The ACTU cites evidence, released in 2016, which highlights
working holiday-makers' experience in Australia:
28 per cent did not receive payment for work undertaken
35 per cent stated they were paid less than the minimum wage
14 per cent revealed they had to pay in advance to get regional
66 per cent felt employers take advantage of people on Working
Holiday Visas by underpaying them.
Working holiday-makers today comprise around 10.8 per cent of the total Australian
labour force aged 15–24, and the program has clearly become 'a fertile ground
for unscrupulous labour hire companies that abuse their workers'.
Mr Giri Sivaraman, Principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, related the experience
of one working holiday-maker:
My client is a man named Youngpil Ko. He is about 24 years
old, he is Korean, and he was a working holiday-maker. He was living on the
Gold Coast and saw a job on a Korean website called SunBrisbane. It did not say
much other than the job was for unloading and packing warehouse containers.
There was a phone number on the site. He called it. He spoke to a man named
Jimmy. Jimmy told Youngpil that he had to get an ABN to do the job, as it was
an ABN job. There were flat rates for all of the work, a bit over $20 an hour.
Jimmy told Youngpil that he had to live in specific accommodation with up to
eight other people, that he had to take the transport that they would give him
to the warehouse where the work was done, that the costs of the accommodation
and the transport would be deducted from any pay that he would otherwise
receive, and that he had no choice about that at all.
He was picked up at either 4 am or 6 am and taken to the
warehouse. The warehouse was a very large warehouse of a multinational company.
He received no training. He never met Jimmy. He got onto the site and met another
fellow named Andy, and was told: 'This is what you have to do. Start working.'
So he would work every day, sometimes up until two, three o'clock in the
afternoon, six days a week, up to 11 hours a day, without any training,
supposedly getting a flat rate. He did not even know what an ABN was. He asked
Andy, 'What's an ABN?' Andy said, 'Don't worry about that; I'll take care of
it.' He did not get a contract. He did not know what kind of working
relationship he had. He did not get pay slips and had no idea that he was
caught up in a labyrinth of subcontracting arrangements. After about three
weeks of doing the work, he questioned Andy, because he had not been paid fully
for the first two weeks and had not been paid at all for the third week, and
Andy said; 'Just keep working, we'll sort it out. Don't worry about it.' He did
another two weeks of work, he did not get paid anything and so he eventually
quit, because he simply was not getting paid at all.
When he was on the site, he was told to wear a vest that said
Vixen Workforce, so he put that on. After he stopped, he initially contacted
Vixen; they did not respond. He tried to call Andy and Jimmy; they refused to return
his calls and did not respond. He noticed on his bank statement that he had
received a payment from a company called Call Now Services. He tried to contact
them; they refused to respond, and he could not find out what their true
corporate status was. The actual warehouse operator knew nothing about him and
was unwilling or unable at that stage to assist him. He contacted the Fair Work
Ombudsman, and they said to him, 'You need to make a claim against Vixen to the
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.' He tried to do that. Bear in
mind, he is trying to do all of this where English is not his first language,
where he has no understanding of the laws under which he is operating or the
people he is dealing with. He tried to make the claim to QCAT against Vixen,
and that claim was thrown out by QCAT on the basis that he could not establish
an employment relationship with Vixen. He tried follow-up CNS, Call Now
Services, with no response. He tried to call Andy and Jimmy, with no response.
One year on, at the time of the committee's hearing in Brisbane,
Mr Youngpil Ko had not seen the money owing to him. Not a large sum
of money, his lawyer explained, but enough for someone in this young man's
situation to be concerned about. Mr Ko, like all workers, is entitled to be
paid for work performed, but his plight is far from unique. Due to shortcomings
in federal and state laws, cultural and language barriers and unscrupulous
employer practices, Mr Ko and other workers like him experience work in
Australia as a form of modern day slavery.
International students fare badly too. Research indicates that nearly
all international students in Australia are paid less than the minimum award
rate, and most are paid below the federally mandated minimum wage.
In some cases, the committee heard, workers are so poorly paid that they
hold down more than one grossly underpaid job in an attempt to make ends meet:
Some of those people had two jobs. Some of them were working
60, 80 or more hours a week. The tragedy of it—and there are many tragedies—was
they were being forced to work outside of their visa restrictions—because many
of them were students and had visa restrictions—simply to make ends meet
because their pay was so low. I had one client who, when you averaged out his
pay across the hours he worked, was getting 47c an hour. He had to work a whole
day to be able to buy a cup of coffee. You cannot live on those wages so, not
surprisingly, they would end up getting a second job. They would then drop out
of uni because they had no time to go to classes. There is a really personal
aspect to all of this—they would feel like failures. I had clients crying who
were so distraught about where they had got to. It was not the Australian dream
that they imagined it would be; it was a nightmare.
Many people who work multiple jobs or long hours are hesitant to
approach the FWO, in part if a complaint is litigated and the facts reveal that
the student works more than 40 hours per fortnight, the Department of Immigration
and Border Protection is informed and the student potentially deported.
In the rare cases that such workers make a claim, the prolonged recovery
of wages process holds little promise for them because their visa restrictions
mean they have to leave the country long before the claim can be progressed. As
put to the committee, 'they come, they get exploited, chewed up, spat out and
then they go'.
Chronic underreporting of exploitation will continue unless steps are
taken to reduce migrant workers' overreliance on their employers and fear of
Addressing exploitation of migrant workers
Migrant workers' industrial rights are all too often 'subordinated by
their immigration status.'
Temporary visas place disproportionate restrictions on the worker,
United Voice submitted, ignoring the power balance between the worker and
employer and applying penalties to the worker where conditions are breached,
irrespective of the reasons for the breach:
The punitive, rather than protective impetus of visa
regulation in regard to workers themselves leads to situations in which
exploited workers who have been compelled to breach a condition of their visa
can lose the right to remain and work in Australia. A common instance of this
is when student visa holders work more than 40 hours per fortnight on the
orders of their employer, and are afraid to come forward out of fear that their
visa will be terminated. Effectively, temporary migrant workers are punished
for the illegal acts of their employers.
The ACTU cited mounting evidence that some employers go so far as to
exert pressure on migrant workers in order to trigger a breach of visa
conditions, thus gaining additional leverage over workers.
Breaching visa conditions gives the employer leverage by putting the worker in
a precarious position:
- The worker is in fear of approaching authorities for fear of visa
cancellation and deportation.
The FWA does not apply where a
person has breached their visa conditions.
On the second point, the ACTU adds that the FWA does not apply 'when a person
has breached their visa conditions or has performed work in the absence of a visa
consistent with any other visa requirements.'
Given the element of employer coercion, the ACTU concluded, current penalties
faced by migrant workers are 'disproportionate and draconian.'
Exploitation should not, United Voice concluded, result in deportation.
The union explained how this could be addressed:
Uphold temporary migrant workers' right to seek justice
without fear of deportation by instituting one-way reporting requirements
between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
A worker on a temporary visa should feel confident that coming forward to report
a claim of underpayment or other breach of the Fair Work Act will not result in
their having to leave the country or be deported. That workers from overseas
are granted the right to remain in the community until civil and/or criminal
claims are resolved is especially important when indicators of modern slavery
Submitters such as United Voice pointed to the critical role unions play
in monitoring and enforcing migrant workers' rights:
Unions are embedded in Australian industries, they have a deep
understanding of the problems faced by migrant workers, and they are working
productively with other stakeholders to ensure that all workers, regardless of
their citizenship, are treated lawfully and fairly in our industries.
The committee notes that the Turnbull Government believes it
delivered a key election commitment by establishing its Migrant Workers
The Taskforce, however, excludes workers and unions, making it unlikely
that meaningful progress will be made while ever affected workers and their
representatives are ignored.
On the basis of evidence presented, the committee concludes that
underpayment of wages is a far bigger problem than isolated non-compliance or
inadvertent oversight. In some sectors, such as the hospitality industry and
jobs involving workers on temporary visas, wage theft is rampant.
Furthermore, in the committee's view the FWO's estimates of the levels
of non-compliance are likely to be a very conservative reflection of the bigger
picture. Given that employers are contacted well in advance of FWO audits, they
have every opportunity to examine their practices and make necessary changes
before an audit takes place. This being the case, the committee concludes that
the actual rate of non-compliance is likely to be even higher.
Given this evidence, it is the committee's view that a lack of union
representation on site, the relative youth of the workforce and a lack of
permanent right to reside in Australia are each individual risk factors for
workers being in a position of vulnerability and when taken together
exponentially add to the likelihood that the worker will be subjected to some
form of wage theft or underpayment.
Underpayment of wages has an associated component of underpayment of
superannuation. While the committee did not hear direct evidence on this issue
it has been widely reported that superannuation underpayments are costing 2.7 million
workers an average of $2025 a year.
According to a December 2016 Industry Super Australia report those
workers in 'less secure' employment were at greater risk of superannuation
underpayment than those in secure employment.
With underpayment of superannuation costing $5.6 billion in the 2013-14
year alone, the knock-on costs to the Commonwealth in the form of long term
increases in aged pension liabilities make this a major Treasury as well as
The next section looks at the penalties for non-compliance.
Penalties for non-compliance
There are few tangible disincentives in place for employers considering underpaying
their staff. Penalties are low in comparison to the money wrongly retained by
underpaying staff, and there appears to be a propensity to attribute underpayment
to oversight, rather than deliberate theft.
The evidence certainly suggests that some employers might be underpaying
workers in the knowledge that penalties are small.
Access to the system
Employees can contact the FWO if they believe they have been underpaid.
The FWO helped resolve a relatively low 29 000 workplace relations matters in
2016, with most resolved through early intervention. It is axiomatic that FWO
is quite selective in deciding which cases to pursue to litigation. FWO says
We use a range of methods to resolve these matters. In many
cases we assist the parties to understand their rights and obligations and
encourage them to resolve the matter with our support and advice. We often find
this to be the quickest and most effective way to resolve many matters, particularly
where the parties are still in an employment relationship. That is why most of
the disputes that come to us are resolved through early intervention strategies
or alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation. Last year,
three-quarters of all the matters that we dealt with were settled using these
sorts of techniques, without the need for a formal investigation or the use of
our formal enforcement powers. If matters are dealt with in this way, they
take, on average, less than one month to resolve.
Matters which require an investigation take an average of 131 days to
resolve. Where a matter goes to court, resolution can take years.
Recouping unpaid wages through the courts is a lengthy and potentially expensive
(fees ranging from $215 up to $2570 upfront with a daily hearing cost of $1020)
and intimidating process many employees are unlikely to pursue.
To enforce payment the matter must be taken to either:
the small claims tribunal, if owed under $20 000; or
the Federal Circuit Court, if owed more than $20 000.
The process is costly for the FWO, forcing FWO to prioritise vulnerable
workers, and it is also costly for unions. The Health Services Union, for
example, reported spending in the vicinity of $100 000 to pursue around half of
that amount in unpaid wages for one particular health worker.
For businesses, however, the cost of enforcement may provide an
incentive to take the risk of underpaying staff, relying on the unlikelihood of
employees pursuing unpaid wages through the system.
As mentioned above underpayment of wages has an associated component of
underpayment of superannuation. The committee believes that it would be more
efficient and effective if the recovery processes for underpaid wages and
underpaid superannuation were simplified and combined and made directly
available to workers and their unions rather than separated between
workers/unions/FWO and the ATO.
Evidence presented to the committee suggests that employers who
deliberately underpay workers do so in part because of a crude risk assessment:
Because unions have reduced power to inspect wages records, the union and the
FWO is unlikely to deploy its limited resources to undertake a prosecution
where penalties might be imposed and the ATO is unlikely to discover underpaid
superannuation contributions then the most likely consequence for being found
out is that they have to repay the wages—it follows that the potential rewards
are significant and the risk is low.
The committee is not persuaded by arguments suggesting that underpayment
is usually the result of oversight, or that the law is too complex for
employers to understand. While genuine errors do occur, these tend not to
consistently favour the pecuniary interests of one side only—employees may be
mistakenly underpaid or overpaid. As the committee did not receive any evidence
suggesting that thousands of vulnerable workers have been enjoying millions of
dollars' worth of accidental overpayment it is not convinced that the levels of
underpayment are due to 'administrative errors'.
Although there may well be employers who do not take the time to acquaint
themselves with the relevant awards, ignorance of the law should not be an
acceptable defence. Put simply, if you want people to work for you, you have a
legal and ethical responsibility to work out what they should be paid, and then
pay them correctly.
The committee concludes that many employers will only begin to take
their obligations towards employees seriously when the financial incentive to
underpay workers is removed. The committee is therefore strongly of the view
that penalties should be increased so that the consequences of underpayment are
serious enough for most employers to decide against taking the risk, and makes
a number of recommendations to that end.
The committee also believes that the incidence of deliberate
underpayment revealed by this and earlier inquiries, along with numerous media
investigations, does not align with community expectations of our system's
capacity to protect vulnerable workers. In the committee's view it is in the
public interest to bring underpayment out of the shadows. To this end, the
committee supports the introduction of penalty notices for businesses found to
be underpaying workers, allowing customers to decide whether they wish to patronise
Furthermore, there is a need for increased monitoring and random checks
to ensure compliance. The FWO has neither the resources nor the interest in
regular engagement with these workplaces specifically on behalf of the workers.
The fact is that unions perform a public good in undertaking regular wage and
superannuation compliance checks.
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Act be amended
to allow unions greater access to workplaces and workers in order to address
the need for increased monitoring and random checks to ensure compliance.
The committee recommends that the penalties for wage and
superannuation theft be substantially increased in order to provide a more
effective deterrence. A combination of more likely discovery and higher
penalties for offending companies would be beneficial to the community as it
would create a level playing field and remove the current competitive
disadvantage that complying employers suffer in industries where wage theft is
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Act be amended
to provide a reverse onus of proof so that, where employers are alleged to have
underpaid staff, the employer is required to disprove the allegation.
The committee recommends that employers' obligations regarding
record-keeping be reviewed.
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Act be amended
to require employers to provide a written statement to every employee, before
any work is performed, setting out the wages and conditions they are being
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Act be amended
to empower the Fair Work Ombudsman to display infringement notices on the
premises of businesses found to be underpaying staff, and that display of such
notices be mandatory where an employer has twice been found to be in breach of
The committee recommends that the government introduce a program
in Australian secondary schools educating young people on their workplace
rights and responsibilities.
The committee recommends that the government work with unions,
migrant and community organisations, employer groups and employers to address
growing exploitation of migrant workers in Australia.
The committee recommends that freedom of association provisions
within the Fair Work Act be strengthened to recognise the role of unions
in providing protection and advice to workers and ensure that all workers are
informed of their industrial rights on commencement of their employment.
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Act and Migration
Act be amended to:
state that a visa breach does not necessarily void a contract of
provide that the protections of the Fair Work Act can be
enforced even when a person has breached their visa conditions or has performed
work in the absence of a visa consistent with any other visa requirements.
The committee recommends that there be an onus of proof placed on
employers that they have genuinely tested the domestic labour market for
available workers before being able to engage temporary visa workers.
The committee recommends that employers pay a training levy for
any and all temporary visa workers that are engaged. The proceeds from the
training levy should be directly invested to close the skills gaps identified
in the domestic labour market.
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