Welcome to the Autumn edition of the Migrant Workers Centre newsletter. From this second quarter of the year, we have updates about:
- A new Horticulture Minimum Wage
- Fighting for Fair 887 Visa Processing
- Worker Story: Seeking Compensation After a Workplace Injury
- New Safety Resources
- Know Your Rights Session Highlights
- Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees
A New Horticulture Minimum Wage
Last year, farm workers and their unions fought hard and won a minimum wage for piece rate workers. Since April this year, this minimum wage has come into effect. All horticulture workers must now be paid the minimum wage, currently $20.33 per hour. Workers on piece rates can earn more, but it is illegal for your employer to pay you any less.
If you are working on a piece rate – your employer must give you a signed record before you start work outlining:
- When (date and time) the piecework is to start
- A description of the tasks for which piece rates will be paid
- The minimum hourly rate for the pieceworker’s classification level (including 25% loading for casual pieceworkers)
- The piece rate amount
Your employer must provide this information in a new record each time they want to change the piece rate. It’s also a good idea to keep your employment contract, a log of your hours worked, payslips and records detailing your piece rates.
The Migrant Workers Centre has created translated resources about the Horticulture Minimum Wage which you can download from our website here.
You can also find more information on the Fair Work Ombudsman website: horticulture.fairwork.gov.au
If you think you’re being underpaid, the Migrant Workers Centre can help. Click here to make an appointment with us.
Fighting for Fair 887 Visa Processing
The Migrant Workers Centre is working with migrant workers in Australia’s regions to address the unacceptably slow processing of the subclass 887 visas.
Last week, over sixty workers came together in an online organising meeting to fight for fairer visa processing times. The 887 is one of the few permanent visas in Australia. The Department of Home Affairs has extended processing times up to two years, and some applicants have been waiting even longer. This extended wait time is keeping families trapped on insecure short-term visas which impacts their ability to secure housing and access to education. Almost all participants in the meeting cited huge impacts on their mental health.
We heard from migration lawyer Sanmati Verma, shared stories of the challenges faced by visa applicants, and discussed how we can campaign for change. If you are an 887 visa applicant and didn't make it to the meeting - you can still take part in the campaign. There are lots of ways people can get involved. Just fill out this online form and someone from the team will get back in touch with you.
You can also watch the recording of the event here:
Worker Story: Seeking Compensation After a Workplace Injury
Over the past few months, the Migrant Workers Centre has assisted several workers with WorkCover claims after they suffered workplace injuries.
Fakhir* is a 43 year old worker, originally from Iraq. He was working in warehousing and delivery for a cleaning supply company when a box fell on his head. Fakhir was unable to work for over 2 months due to the severity of the injury. He knew about WorkCover but had difficulty navigating the application process due to language barriers. He came to the Migrant Workers Centre for help and we were able to provide information in Arabic. Our organisers also talked Fakhir through the WorkCover application process including getting the right paperwork such a Certificate of Capacity to show he was unable to perform his regular duties. We then helped review his completed WorkCover form. Fakhir is now receiving weekly payments with over $4000 in backpay for lost wages.
A second worker, Rashid*, also sought assistance from the Migrant Workers Centre after sustaining rib fractures in a scissor lift injury. Rashid is a 34 year old from Iraq who came to Australia in 2020 seeking asylum and is currently on a 6 month bridging visa. He was working on a construction site when he suffered the injury which left him hospitalised for 6 days. Rashid obtained a Certificate of Capacity and filled out injury forms for WorkCover but did not hear back from his employer. The Migrant Workers Centre is currently assisting Rashid access payments for lost wages.
These two cases illustrate how even when formal compensation and support avenues such as WorkCover exist, they can be difficult to navigate - especially for migrants who face language barriers and a lack of accessible information. Furthermore, in Rashid’s case, being on a temporary precarious visa means there is a power imbalance between him and his employer which can make pursuing WorkCover additionally challenging. Receiving support in language such as from the Migrant Workers Centre, or joining a union are ways for workers to address this imbalance.
*Names have been changed
New Safety Resources
All workplace injuries are preventable. While it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe and to provide adequate training - a better understanding of workplace rights and OH&S empowers workers to speak up when something feels unsafe. The Migrant Workers Centre has made a series of translated dual language posters with some common workplace hazards.
We’ve also created a series of leaflets about psychosocial hazards in the workplace.
In addition to physical safety, employers also have a duty to ensure employees’ mental health is not harmed at work. Common risks to mental health include bullying, high levels of stress or gendered violence. It's important to identity and address the causes of psychological harm before you reach a crisis point. And if you experience a mental health injury at work, you have the right to get help and seek compensation just like when you suffer a physical injury.
Our new resources identify some common psychosocial risk factors, signs of poor mental health, and what to do if you think your workplace is impacting your mental health.
Know Your Rights Session Highlights
Over the past months, the Migrant Workers Centre has run 18 Know Your Rights sessions with education institutions and community organisations. Highlights include sessions at Wodonga TAFE in English, Nepali and Swahili with multicultural safety ambassador Kaloki. Other sessions were held with the Centre for Multicultural Youth, Melbourne Polytechnic, Kangan Institute, Box Hill Tafe and the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Session with Centre for Multicultural Youth
Session at Wodonga TAFE
In addition to our standard sessions, we also held a session with the Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA) that additionally covered information about mental health in the workplace.
Palm Sunday Walk for Justice For Refugees
Hassan, MWC organiser and founder of Justice for Refugees Victoria, acted as MC at the Walk for Justice for Refugees on Palm Sunday.
There’s been good news this year with the release of the remaining men imprisoned in the Park Hotel in Melbourne and the return of the Nadesalingam family to Biloela. However, the Migrant Workers Centre is continuing to call on the Government to abolish the Temporary Protection Visa and grant permanent visas to all people seeking asylum.
The Temporary Protection Visa forces people to live in limbo with no health care and mental health support, no opportunities for family reunion, and even limits the children of TPV holders from accessing education opportunities. We’re continuing to advocate for pathways to permanency for all temporary visa holders.