SUBMISSION FROM THE MIGRANT WORKERS CENTRE ON WAGE THEFT CRIMINALISATION
Summary of recommendations:
1. Wage theft should be defined to include any underpayment, withholding, or misappropriation of the wages and entitlements.
2. Penalties should be proportionally applied in reference to the number of instances of each contravention made, number of workers affected, length of period over which contraventions are made. Criminal sanctions should be introduced against serious forms of wage theft conducted in systemic manners
3. Additional penalties should be applied for contraventions made disproportionately against migrant workers and for practices of knowingly unduly influencing, pressuring, or coercing temporary migrant workers in breach of their visa conditions.
4. Migration agents should be penalised if they directly or indirectly profit from exploiting migrant workers.
5. A wage theft inspectorate should be established that holds the authority to (a) inspect businesses’ employment and payment records, (b) investigate any potential wage theft, and (c) press charges.
6. The wage theft inspectorate should be assisted by a statutory institution on the matters of assisting migrant workers to report contraventions and recover stolen wages and entitlements.
7. The Fair Entitlement Guarantee should be extended to migrant workers on temporary visas.
8. 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.
9. Any breaches of visa-specific work conditions by a migrant worker filing claims for wage theft should not provide a ground for cancelling the worker’s current visa or denying a subsequent visa.
10. A bridging visa should be established to regularise stay of migrant workers who have workplace claims pending.
11. Unions should be given entry powers for inspection over their industrial coverage and be allowed to institute proceedings for wage recovery on behalf of migrant workers. They should be assisted with adequate funding to be able to extend their services to migrant workers.