Welcome to our first newsletter of 2023. In this edition:
- Bicultural Work Rights Ambassadors’ Program
- Ambassador Profile: Remart
- Know Your Rights Sessions 2023
- Worker Win: $118,425 recovered in stolen wages
- Upcoming Research Report Launch: Insecure by Design
- Pathway to permanency for 19,000 temporary visa holders & the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice
- International Women’s Day and WRAWfest
- Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave
- New Resource: What is a union?
Bicultural Work Rights Ambassadors’ Program
Our Bicultural Work Rights Ambassadors have kicked off the year with several ‘Know Your Rights’ sessions across Melbourne. These sessions are led by community leaders who have undertaken training with the MWC and are held in various languages. This program enables the MWC to support a wider network of migrant communities across Victoria through trusted community members. In addition to our new cohort of ambassadors, many existing ambassadors have also undertaken refresher training with up-to-date info about workplace rights and are ready to hold events near you!
Bassir Qadiri leading a Know Your Rights session with the Bakhtar Communtiy Organisation in Pashto and Dari.
Neha Gogia leading a Know Your Rights session with migrant women.
Alexandria Somirs connecting with tutors and students at the AMEP picnic.
Ambassador Profile: Remart
Remart is an international student from the Philippines and currently undertaking a PhD researching Government policy. He’s also the president of FASTCO – a Filipino organisation representing international students – where he leads a regular ‘post-arrival orientation seminar’.
“Being an international student myself, the information I’ve gotten from the MWC has been really essential, particularly information about safety at work and Awards for different industries. Every time I give a presentation – the reactions are really unique. [For many students] it’s their first time hearing about their workplace rights. It’s really important they know this. A big issue for international students right now is how to avoid scam job advertisements.
"It’s also important to meet with leaders from other communities. Each community has its own pressing issues. For example, people who speak English as a first language face different barriers to people who speak English as a second language. Having different leaders and different input is very interesting. There’s always stereotypes and having representatives from different communities helps us bridge the stereotypes and combat different issues.
"It’s very important that we have cultural awareness. When you go to work, most workers are from different communities. And having knowledge about how to combat racism and discrimination helps.
"The BRWAP training program really helped me broaden my horizons and understanding of workplace rights. It also showed me we are not alone and there are always organisations we can lean on.”
Know Your Right Sessions 2023
In addition to sessions led by Work Rights Ambassadors, MWC organisers are continuing to run a range of KYR sessions. This year we are deepening our partnerships with education providers including Box Hill Tafe and Melbourne Polytechnic and have a new collaboration with Whittlesea Community Connections running regular sessions as part of their pre-employment training program.
If you’d like to book a KYR sessions, you can find out more and get in touch with us here.
A group of 5 workers have recovered $118,425.05 in stolen wages with the support of the Migrant Workers Centre after the food manufacturing business they worked for closed down without warning in November 2022.
Min* is in her 60s and came to Australia from China in 2006. She had worked packing food for this manufacturer for the 16 years since she arrived. She was employed on a full-time ongoing basis and had the assumption of stability and security.
When the business closed down in November 2022, Min and her co-workers were given no warning. Despite over a decade of dedicated work, Min did not receive any notice period or redundancy pay and the employer also withheld outstanding superannuation, long service leave and annual leave.
Min and four co-workers, who had all worked for the company for between 6 - 16 years, knew they were being treated unfairly and came to the Migrant Workers Centre for advice.
MWC organisers assisted the workers with calculating the total amount of unpaid wages and entitlements they were owed. During this process, we reviewed the Food, Beverage & Tobacco Manufacturing Award with the workers and uncovered their employer had also been stealing their wages. Their payslips showed they were working at a flat rate of $21.5 per hour for 38 hours a week. They were in fact working 50 hours a week with no overtime.
The possibility of reclaiming the unpaid entitlements in this case hinged on the fact that the business had not been liquidated but simply closed down. All too often, migrant workers at liquidated companies never see their stolen wages and entitlements due to being excluded from the Fair Entitlements Guarantee. This gave this case a sense of urgency as the workers raced to make their demands in case the employer liquidated the company.
After lengthy negotiations with the employer, the workers so far successfully reclaimed $118,425.05 in unpaid entitlements. However, they’re continuing their fight for justice for the remaining stolen wages.
If you think you’re being underpaid, or need help with a workplace issue, you can make an appointment with the MWC here.
*Name has been changed
Upcoming Research Report Launch – Insecure by Design
Over 1000 workers responded to our annual survey last year and after months of work reviewing the data and conducting 65 follow up interviews, we’re pleased to announce our upcoming research report Insecure by Design: Australia's migration system and migrant workers' job market experience will be published in March.
Stay tuned for the launch. For media enquiries, please contact Ella at [email protected].
Pathway to permanency for 19,000 temporary visa holders and the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice
The Federal government has announced an end to temporary protection and bridging visas for 19,000 temporary visa holders, who will now have a pathway to permanency in Australia.
This comes after many years of hard work, advocacy and campaigning by refugees and people seeking asylum and their communities. Thousands of people in our communities will finally be afforded the basic dignity of protection, be able to reunite with family, and no longer be barred from accessing support services and education.
We welcome this decision, however, we will continue to advocate and fight for the remaining protection and bridging visa holders who have been excluded in this announcement, and all people seeking asylum who continue to face detention or deportation.
On Sunday 2 April, the MWC will be taking part in the annual Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees. You can follow updates about the event here.
If you are a TPV or SHEV holder, you can find more info about applying for a permanent visa via the Department of Home Affairs website.
International Women’s Day and WRAWfest
Coming up this March is the annual International Women’s Day Rally and WRAWfest, led by We Are Union Women at Trades Hall. In 2023, the gender pay gap is still 13.3% and women, particularly migrant women, continue to face discrimination and gendered violence at work.
On Wednesday 8 March, we’ll be marching through Melbourne to show bosses, governments and the media that women are speaking up and demanding change. RSVP now – all welcome!
Following on from the IWD Rally will be two weeks of events at the Women’s Rights at Work Festival. From the 8th – 22nd March, there’ll be more than 10 face to face and online events celebrating and skilling up all women fighting for rights and safety at work!
Some highlights include
- Women as HSRs – Q&A and Networking
- Campaigning to Win Reproductive, Menstruation & Menopause Leave Rights
- International Solidarity and Global Unions | A training resource.
Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave
Workers can now access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave per year. If you work for a small business (less than 15 employees), you will be able to access this leave from 1 August 2023. In the meantime, you can still take unpaid family and domestic violence leave.
This leave is available to ALL employees. It doesn’t matter if you are full time, part time, casual, a citizen or a temporary visa holder.
When you take paid family and domestic violence leave, you should be paid at your full rate of pay for the hours you would normally work. If you are casual – that means all shifts you were rostered on for including loadings, penalty rates and overtime.
If you need to take family and domestic violence leave, your employer should keep a record of this leave, however your payslips should not mention family and domestic violence leave.
If your workplace already has paid family and domestic violence leave, this new entitlement will apply as a minimum.
New resource: What is a union?
Our new series of translated resources about unions and how being a union member can help you fight for your rights at work is online! This resource is available in English, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Punjabi, Nepali, Vietnamese and Spanish. Click here to view and download the resources.
They’re also available as trifold flyers. If you would like these in tri-fold format, please contact us at [email protected]