05 December 2008

Australian govt passes new law to protect temporary overseas workers

The Australian Parliament passed new laws yesterday, 4 December, to increase protection of the rights of temporary overseas workers.

The Migration Legislation Amendment (Worker Protection) Bill 2008 is intended to protect the rights of workers on the subclass 457 visa program, and is the result of collaboration between the government, unions and industry leaders.

 The subclass 457 visa scheme allows employers to sponsor overseas workers to work temporarily in Australia if the Australian labour market is not meeting the needs of that industry.

During 2007-08, around 60,000 Australian visas were granted to overseas workers.  Although the government believes the majority of employers in Australia comply with the conditions of their sponsorship obligations, it is also aware that some employers are breaking the law to advantage their business. 

During the same year, the government issued an increased number of warnings and formal sanctions to employers than the year before.  In 2007-08, 192 sponsors were formally sanctioned and a further 1353 employers were formally warned, while the year prior only 95 sanctions and 313 formal warnings were issued.

Now that Parliament has officially passed the bill, officers have the right to investigate and monitor workplaces to ensure employers are complying with their sponsorship obligations.  Fines for non-compliance could reach up to $33,000 and could prevent them from further opportunities of hiring foreign workers.

The bill also ensures employers pay the 457 visa holders the correct wages or salaries.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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