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Newsletter of October 2018

Migrants join huge union rally demanding pay rise, as new report reveals underpayment of over one billion dollars

Migrant workers march in Melbourne on 23 October 2018

Source: Migrant Workers Centre

Migrants like Sajita Sitaula Aryal, who came to Melbourne from Nepal five years ago and worked as a cleaner ever since, are joining the 150,000-strong “Australia Needs a Pay Rise” rally to protest against stagnant wages, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported.


As cost of living rapidly increases, workers of migrant background claim that wage increase barely covers inflation, and they cannot make ends meet by relying on the minimum pay which sits at $18.93 now.


Apart from low wages, migrant workers are also fighting against underpayment.


The most recent report “Wage Theft in Silence” published by UNSW Sydney and UTS found out that more than nine in ten migrant workers on temporary visas are ripped off by unscrupulous employers, and the entire underpayment could mount to well over one billion dollars.


Contrary to previous assumptions that migrants are generally not interested or willing to recover what they are owed. 54% of the those surveyed actually said that they have already tried to or will try to get their pay back in the future.



Migrant workers win backpay in landmark lawsuit against exploitative labour hire company


Tulia Roqara, one of the five workers who brought Agri Labour Australia to court

Source: Eddie Jim


After Fairfax Media uncovered workers from Vanuatu were underpaid and exposed to chemicals while working on a farm in regional Victoria, five of those workers took legal actions against their labour hire company and won a substantial amount of settlement, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported. 


The workers, supported by National Union of Workers, agreed to settle the case with Brisbane-based Agri Labour for $150,000, twice the amount they claimed they were owed.


They were also believed to be the first in Australia to use the Protecting Vulnerable Workers amendments to the Fair Work Act which were introduced last year and carry up to ten times higher in penalties than previously.


''The most important thing, it’s not all about the money ... (it's about) that we have the same rights Australians have,” noted Tulia Roqara, one of the five workers who brought the legal claim.


National Union of Workers national secretary Tim Kennedy welcomed the settlement and said it was a ''significant win'' for workers '"who have taken a stand against wage theft", according to The Sydney Morning Herald.


Agri Labour’s managing director Casey Brown claimed the company "categorically deny that any workers were exploited or treated unfairly".



Minister for population fails to explain Coalition’s plan to send migrant to rural Australia

Minister for population Alan Tudge said in early October that up to 45 percent of permanent immigrants could expect visas that require them to spend "at least a few years" in regional areas, as SBS reported.


Tudge claimed the government plans to use a “combination of encouragement and some conditions” to keep the newly arrived out of major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. But he refused to specify what punishments might apply to those who breach their conditions, or how long the conditions would be imposed.


Days after Tudge’s statement, the Guardian said Coalition’s “half-baked plan” cannot work, because what drives migrant to stay in one place is jobs and infrastructure, not the fear of punishment or even incentives.


“Ironically, reducing international migration to large cities would make it harder for the regions, including Adelaide and Hobart, to maintain their populations,” noted Peter McDonald from the University of Melbourne. Because young people in those areas would face tougher competition and be drawn to Sydney and Melbourne, replacing the migrants.



For comments and inquiries, please contact the Migrant Workers Centre on [email protected] or Sam Jiayi Liu, Media and Communications Officer, on [email protected]


31 Oct 2018

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