SUBMISSION OF THE MIGRANT WORKERS CENTRE TO THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON TEMPORARY MIGRATION
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
A PEOPLE-CENTRED TEMPORARY MIGRATION PROGRAM
Recommendation 1. The federal government should provide information about workplace rights in community languages, upon issuing temporary visas with work rights, to those who are issued the visas offshore. It should also facilitate follow-up education upon arrival by funding trade unions and community legal centres to offer workplace rights workshops in community languages.
Recommendation 2. The federal government should revise the restrictive conditions of temporary visas that hinder holders of the visas from exercising their workplace rights and fighting against discrimination, exploitation, or harassment (see Appendix 1 on page 20 for visa-specific recommendations).
Recommendation 3. The federal government should replace labour agreements with businesses that subordinate migrant workers to their employers with ones with regional governments that facilitate the settlement of temporary migrant workers and the development of regional Australia.
BETTER TRANSITION TO PERMANENT RESIDENCY
Recommendation 4. The federal government should provide adequate onshore pathways to permanent residency to temporary migrant workers of all visa subclasses who are already in the country and have contributed to its economy. The time they have spent working in Australia should be given greater weight in consideration of their applications for permanent residency.
Recommendation 5. The federal government should adjust the yearly maximum numbers of permanent and temporary visas issued and maintain an adequate ratio between the two to enable temporary migrant workers to acquire permanent residency within a reasonable time frame as long as they satisfy the points test.
Recommendation 6. The federal government should establish a genuinely tripartite, independent, and transparent body with responsibility and commensurate funding that can provide objective evidence-based advice to the government on matters pertaining to skills shortages, training needs, workforce capacity and planning, and labour migration.
STRONG PROTECTION OF WORKPLACE RIGHTS
Recommendation 7. Criminal sanctions should be introduced against serious forms of wage theft. The onus of proof should be reversed when employers have breached payslip and record-keeping obligations. Falsifying or failing to keep employee records should also be criminalised.
Recommendation 8. Additional penalties should be introduced against contraventions made disproportionately against migrant workers. In addition, employers knowingly influencing or coercing temporary migrant workers into breaching their visa conditions should be regulated and sanctioned.
Recommendation 9. Courts and tribunals should be reformed to enable fast and simple avenues for all workers to recover stolen wages.
Recommendation 10. The federal government should introduce a national labour hire licensing scheme that replicates and scales up the best-practice requirements of the Queensland and Victorian state schemes.
Recommendation 11. The federal government should protect the entitlements of every worker in the face of liquidation by amending the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Act 2012 and extending the eligibility to make a claim under the Act to all, irrespective of their residency or visa status.
Recommendation 12. The federal government should proactively disseminate the message that the standards under the Fair Work Act 2009 apply to every worker equally, irrespective of their residency or visa status.
Recommendation 13. A clear and strong firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs should be created by making comprehensive improvements to the existing Assurance Protocol to protect wage theft victims and whistle-blowers. When a migrant worker reports wage theft, any breaches of visa-specific work conditions should not provide a ground for cancelling the worker’s current visa or denying a subsequent visa.
Recommendation 14. The federal government should establish a bridging visa with work rights to extend the stay of temporary migrant workers who are victims of workplace exploitation, harassment, or injury and enable them to access justice in court, compensation, or medical/psychological treatment.
Recommendation 15. Australia’s social security net should be expanded to cover temporary migrant workers who make contributions to the national economy and share the cost of operating welfare schemes.
Recommendation 16. The federal government should allow all refugees to stay permanently. All bridging visas granted to asylum seekers should have reasonably long expiries with work rights to facilitate their employment while they wait for protection outcomes.
Recommendation 17. Civil society organisations including trade unions, migrant community organisations, and community legal centres should be assisted with adequate funding to extend their services to migrant workers and meet their social, economic, and cultural needs.
Recommendation 18. Migration agents’ adherence to the code of conduct should be actively regulated. Penalties should be applied to migration agents who knowingly facilitate employers to make fraudulent employment arrangements with migrant workers.