Welcome to the end of year newsletter for 2022. We’ve had a busy final quarter, and this final edition includes the updates about:
- MWC holiday closure
- New BWRAP cohort
- Report: Waiting to be Seen
- 887 visa applicants rally for fair visa processing times
- Policy: A comprehensive review of Australia’s migration system
- Solidarity Cup
- Education and empowerment: Know Your Rights & Solidarity Hour Sessions
- MWC at the HSR Conference
- Petition: Permanent visas for refugees
- Pampas pastry workers on strike
MWC Holiday Closure
The Migrant Workers Centre will be closed for the holiday period from Friday 23 December until Monday 9 January. If you need urgent assistance during this time, such as with an unfair dismissal, you can contact JobWatch on (03) 9662 1933 for assistance.
New BWRAP cohort
A new cohort of 10 Safety Ambassadors have graduated the Bi-cultural Work Rights Ambassadors Program. This is the fifth iteration of the program – formerly known as the Multicultural Safety Ambassadors' Program – which trains and empowers community leaders to delivery sessions about workplace rights and health and safety to their community members.
Altogether, this cohort of Ambassadors speak 19 languages - Dari, French, Hazaragi, Pashto, Karen, Thai, Spanish, Tagalog, Fijian, Fiji Hindi, Punjabi, Hindi, Sinhala, Tamil, Urdu, Burmese, Tedim Chin, Zo Chin, and Portuguese. They undertook training over a week in person and via Zoom, and in the new year they will be supported to deliver information sessions in language.
Welcome and congratulations to the new Ambassadors!
New Ambassadors with MWC team
Waiting to be Seen
In September, we launched a new report, Waiting to be Seen: Problems of Australia’s Visa Processing Delays. The report drew further findings from our annual survey last year to reveal the cracks in Australia’s migration system.
Key findings in Waiting to Be Seen show:
- A sixfold increase in the number of people stuck on Bridging Visas.
- A drastic increase in wait times for visas with the processing time for the subclass 887 visa more than doubling at 24 months.
- The de-prioritisation of permanent visas at the expense of temporary visas and employer sponsored visas. A Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) applicant can expect to wait for 39 months to become a permanent resident while one applying for an Employer Sponsored Visa (subclass 186) will receive the visa in 12 months. The Working Holiday and Student Visas, which are amongst the most restrictive temporary visas, are processed the fastest.
- The DHA has reduced the number of officers assigned to onshore visa processing, despite the number of people who make onshore visa applications in the last decade rapidly increasing.
887 visa applicants rally for fair visa processing times
The publication of this report came alongside a grassroots campaign led by 887 visa applicants who have been suffering under extensive visa wait times.
The 887 regional visa is one of the few permanent visas, and migrant workers become eligible after living and working in designated areas in regional Australia for several years. However, in recent years, the wait times for this visa have exploded, leaving 887 visa applicants living in limbo with wait times of over 2 years. This not only prolongs uncertainty for many migrants who’ve dedicated years of their lives to their communities, but also affects access to childcare, education, housing and support services.
In September, the MWC supported 887 visa applicants around Australia to hold rallies drawing attention to this issue. We held phonebanks to turn out people to protests in Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane, and supported 887 applicants to amplify their voices in the media.
We welcome the Federal Government’s recent commitment to clearing the visa backlog and join calls for a migration system centred around permanent visas.
887 visa applicants at the Melbourne rally
Policy: A comprehensive review of Australia’s migration system
The MWC has made two submissions to the Department of Home Affairs' Comprehensive Review of Australia’s Migration System. The aim of this review is to establish the core principles on which Australia’s migration system will rest, guide future reform, and will focus on enhancing Australia’s productivity.
The MWC has long advocated for a human centred migration system that prioritises the dignity of migrant workers. The scope of this review is limited by its economic focus. However, we have taken this opportunity to reiterate and elaborate on our policy recommendations for a fairer, permanent visa system for all including people seeking asylum, those in detention and with irregular visa status.
The first submission is made jointly with several partner organisations – HRLC, GetUp, Democracy in Colour, ASRC, Liberty Victoria and Amnesty International – and offers solutions to the ‘permanent temporariness’ of Australia’s current visa system. The second submission made in partnership with HRLC takes a focused look at Australia’s international education and employer sponsored skilled migration programs and offers solutions for a fairer visa system.
The key recommendations in our submissions include:
- Introducing standardised visa processing times, ending the punitive use of Bridging visas and abolishing the visa subclasses that are most closely associated with 'permanently temporary' status.
- Removing unnecessary work restrictions on visas and introducing whistleblower protections for temporary visa holders who experience exploitation at work – including a protection against visa cancellation, and a visa to remain in Australia while taking action against an employer.
- Protecting family reunion through introducing a presumption of family unity in decision making, restoring genuinely ‘demand driven’ family migration and allowing clear access to permanent residency.
- Creating self-nominated pathways to permanent residency and accepting that after a period in Australia, all temporary migrants become indelibly part of the community and deserve the legal recognition that flows from that.
- Substantially increasing contributions to the Tuition Protection Service, which would allow for greater compensation to be paid to students adversely impacted by the conduct of their college or university.
- Overhauling skilled and employer-sponsored migration and replacing it with an accessible, self-nominated system of temporary migration in areas of skills shortage, with permanent residency available after two years.
A report of the review’s findings is expected to be released by the end of February.
Alongside these submissions, the MWC has also collaborated with The Federation of Ethnic Community Councils and other community organisations to endorse a set of principles underpinning a fair and inclusive migration system. You can read more about the principles here.
The Migrant Worker Solidarity Network celebrated the end of the year with the Solidarity Cup – a day of soccer open to migrants and allies of all nationalities, ages, genders and abilities.
Congratulations to the members of the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network who led this event, and our friends at the Renters and Housing Union who helped make it happen.
It was fantastic to see members of the Solidarity Network, the MWC team, and the wider community come together. Check out the event highlights below:
It won't be the last time you see us out on the field so stay tuned for future events in the new year!
Education and empowerment: Know Your Rights & Solidarity Hour Sessions
We’ve had a busy final quarter of the year with several Know Your Rights sessions and Solidarity Hour workshops.
Our KYR sessions cover information about basic workplace rights and safety and were delivered in partnership with education institutions such as Chisholm TAFE, as well as community cultural groups.
MWC organiser Alba delivering a KYR session to a local Syrian group in collaboration with Cohealth.
If you’d like to book KYR sessions for next year, please email [email protected] and we will be in touch.
We also concluded the year with two workshops in our new Solidarity Hour series. The Solidarity Hour series is aimed at emerging migrant and community leaders, activists and volunteers, bicultural workers, and community service providers assisting migrant workers.
Our most recent session on wage theft was held in collaboration with the Wage Inspectorate Victoria and looked at the minimum wage and award rates, how to use pay calculators to check if you're being paid correctly, and where to get help if you experience wage theft.
We’ll be continuing the series in the new year so stay tuned for future events!
MWC at the HSR Conference
The MWC held a stall at the annual HSR conference held by Victorian Trades Hall Council. The conference brought together health and safety reps from workplaces across industries and unions. We took the opportunity to share our translated resources about workplace health and safety, common workplace hazards and psychosocial hazards at work, and speak to HSRs about how migrant workers can be better supported in the workplace.
MWC organiser Ella at the HSR conference
Petition: Permanent visas for refugees
On the 29 November, thousands of people gathered to call on the Government to offer permanent visas to all refugees and people seeking asylum. Refugee communities who arrived by boat up to 10 years ago are still generally ineligible for permanent protection. This group must instead rely on temporary protection visas (TPV) or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV) and constantly re-apply after every 3 or 5 years respectively. For over a decade, the government has forced 30,000 people to endure an endless cycle of temporary visas.
The MWC joins calls on the government to end the uncertainty and implement:
- Permanent visas and a pathway to citizenship for all refugees on temporary visas, including TPVs and SHEVs, via a fair and efficient process.
- Realistic pathways for family reunions.
- Full access to healthcare, higher education, income support and all other government supports available to all Australians.
Pampas pastry workers on strike
Pampas pastry workers and their union, the United Workers Union are taking industrial action to fight for fair wages and job security this month. Most of the workers are migrants and some have worked for their employer Goodman Fielder for nearly 20 years without secure employment, and without sick pay or holiday pay.
Goodman Fielder supplies Pampas pastry to major supermarkets, as well as large retail chains such as Baker's Delight and Zambrero’s. Earlier this month, the MWC joined the Pampas pastry workers at an action at the Baker's Delight headquarters, calling on the bakery chain to put pressure on Goodman Fielder to offer fair wages for the workers.
Pampas workers and United Workers Union members outside Baker's Delight
We hope you have a restful summer and we look forward to continuing our work in the new year.