News National Exploitation of foreign workers a concern: govt

Exploitation of foreign workers a concern: govt

Many 417 working holiday visa holders are being underpaid and overworked on vegetable and fruit farms.
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The Federal Government says it is concerned by foreign worker exploitation exposed in Monday night’s ABC Four Corners program.

The ABC revealed many people on 417 working holiday visas are being underpaid and overworked on vegetable and fruit farms, and in chicken factories.

Labour-hire companies have also allegedly skimmed off millions of dollars in unpaid wages.

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Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash is urging people to report wrongdoing.

“The allegations made in last night’s Four Corners program are concerning,” Senator Cash said in a statement.

“Labour-hire companies, like all Australian employers, are also legally required to treat and remunerate all of their employees … with work rights in accordance with Australian workplace law,” she said.

While the majority of employers do the right thing and treat their workers with the decency they deserve, we have a responsibility to ensure we are doing all we can to address the instances where worker’s rights are being compromised.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is currently investigating the employment of 417 visa holders by on-hire labour firms.”

The Minister recently asked the Immigration Department to investigate the relationship between the working holiday visa system and labour hire companies.

Senator Cash’s comments follow an announcement from the Victorian Government that it would begin an inquiry into labour exploitation in the second half of the year.

Victoria’s Minister for Industrial Relations, Natalie Hutchins, said the inquiry would seek to crack down on unscrupulous labour-hire practices.

“We’re just in the process of putting some terms of reference together and putting a committee together to actually do the investigation,” she said.

“We’re hoping to get some pretty quick outcomes around how we can actually regulate probably some of the worst labour hire practices that we’ve seen in a long time.

“The inquiry will look at and investigate recommendations for the best possible form of regulation.

“We need to get the message out loud and clear that every unethical labour contractor that’s operating needs to know that these activities won’t be tolerated in Victoria.”


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