2016, the Australian Government established the Migrant Workers Task Force and
protected Professor Allan Fels AO, a former Commissioner of the ACCC, as the
Chair of the Task Force.
time, this high-powered and multi-agency task force has been examining issues
associated with the employment of more than 870,000 migrant workers in the
Australian workplace – more than half of whom are international students.
The final report of the Task Force was delivered to the Federal Minister for Jobs, Industrial Relations and Women – the Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer – in February 2019 and was subsequently released by the Government into the wider community this week (See HERE.)
141-page report is scathing of current business practices, with Professor Fels
stating that “The problem of wage underpayment is widespread and has become
more entrenched over time”
releasing the report, Minister O’Dwyer stated that “The exploitation of workers
in Australian workplaces is not only illegal, it harms individuals, undercuts
law-abiding employers and reflects poorly on Australia’s international
Coalition Government has no tolerance for those who repeatedly and deliberately
underpay workers, whether they are an Australian or a worker on a visa” the
Minister went on to state that the Federal Government has accepted the 22
recommendations of the Task Force in principle, noting that one of them refers
to the introduction of criminal sanctions for deliberate exploitation of
the most serious and egregious cases would be subject to criminal penalties,
not employers that accidently or inadvertently do the wrong thing”, Minister
comes on top of a raft of policy and legislative measures being introduced by
the Australian Government to counter practices involving the deliberate
exploitation of all workers.
measures include the provision of a further $14.4M to the Fair Work Ombudsman
to focus on enforcement actions targeting the protection of migrant workers and
work on a model for a new Labour Hire Registration Scheme which will “reduce
worker exploitation and drive behavioural change among labour hire operators in
high risk sectors”, likely including the fuel retail sector.
unfortunate that these new laws have been deemed necessary, but no fair minded
Australian can reasonably oppose the recommendations identified in this latest
report, albeit that a number are likely to be quite challenging to implement”,
said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie
does wage exploitation represent a gross breach of fairness from the
perspective of the worker, it also provides businesses engaging in such action
with an unfair and illegal competitive advantage – one that cannot be tolerated
in our highly competitive market”, Mark added.
understands that the Australian Government will now consult closely with
stakeholders as it considers how best to action the 22 recommendations
contained in the report – including consideration of the most appropriate
legislative mechanism to give effect to criminal sanctions for those engaging
in deliberate exploitation of migrant workers.
participate in this process and provide further information to ACAPMA members
as it comes to hand”, said Mark
meantime, any member unsure about the legal requirements for employing migrant
workers in their business should contact the ACAPMA Employment Services team on
1300 160 270 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to
clarify the requirements of current law.