Two Australian skilled visa holders have been paid their entitled wages after an investigation into their employer by the Australian Government.
09 July 2009
Funds recovered for Australian skilled visa holders
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, today welcomed the action of the Fair Work Ombudsman in recovering more than AU$8,000 in back-pay owed to two overseas workers employed in the Goldfields on skilled temporary business (subclass 457) visas.
Senator Evans said it was unacceptable that employers sought to exploit foreign workers on temporary Australian skilled migration visas.
"Most employers do the right thing but when foreign workers on Subclass 457 visas are underpaid or exploited, it undermines confidence in the program," Senator Evans said.
"This case is a good example of the close cooperation between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the Fair Work Ombudsman in dealing with rogue employers."
DIAC began monitoring the employer last year and issued it with a breach notice in March 2009 following an investigation which uncovered the underpayment.
To further prevent the exploitation of temporary overseas workers and ensure local wages and conditions are not undermined, the Rudd Government's new worker protection laws that come into effect in September will provide for fines of up to $33,000 for employers found in breach of the obligations in the Migration Regulations.
The new laws will enable specially trained officers with investigative powers to monitor workplaces and conduct site visits to ensure employers are complying with their sponsorship obligations, similar to the powers of workplace inspectors under the Workplace Relations Act.
In addition, the Commissioner of Taxation will be able to share tax information with DIAC to ensure correct salary levels are being paid to visa holders. The department will also retain the ability to cancel an employer's approval as a sponsor or bar them from making further applications for overseas workers if they breach their obligations.
Other changes announced to the Skilled Temporary Business (subclass 457) visa program in April will help protect temporary skilled workers from exploitation and ensure they are not used to undermine Australian wages and conditions. The seven key reform measures are:
- introducing market salary rates to replace minimum salary levels from September 2009;
- increasing the minimum salary level for Australian visa holders by 4.1 per cent from 1 July 2009;
- increasing the English language skills requirements for all chefs and lower skilled occupations;
- introducing formal trade assessments from 1 July 2009 for all trades and chefs from countries that are not considered low-risk countries;
- a requirement that employers attest to a strong record of employing local labour and non-discriminatory employment practices;
- developing formal training benchmarks for sponsors; and
- requiring ASCO 5-7 (lower skilled) occupations to have labour agreements.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrating to Australia.