Unions welcome new protections for migrant workers, decrying past “shameful exploitation”
Australia’s labour movement has hailed the passage of the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill 2023, calling it a long-overdue step towards curbing “shameful” exploitation of migrant workers.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) welcomed the new legislation, which targets unscrupulous employers who prey on vulnerable workers on temporary visas.
“The exploitation of migrant workers is completely unacceptable,” declared ACTU President Michele O’Neil. “We commend the Albanese Government for taking action to protect these workers and send a clear message that this shameful practice will not be tolerated.”
The Bill introduces tougher measures against exploitative employers, including criminalising the coercion or undue influence of migrant workers into breaching visa conditions or accepting unfair treatment, and empowering the Industrial Relations Minister to ban employers found guilty of exploitation from hiring temporary visa workers for five years.
These measures aim to shift the focus from vulnerable workers – who often fear repercussions for reporting abuses – to the employers who actively exploit the system for personal gain.
O’Neil highlighted the broader impact of such exploitation, stating that “it hurts all workers, exposing the flaws in a system that relies heavily on temporary visas and leaves workers without adequate protections.”
This legislation aligns with the Albanese Government’s broader Migration Strategy, unveiled late last year, which aims to address exploitation and promote a more equitable migration system.
The ACTU views these changes as crucial steps towards a future where temporary migrant workers no longer face the fear of losing their visa status for speaking up against workplace injustices.
This development comes after years of criticism towards the previous government’s inaction on migrant worker exploitation.