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New ‘Workplace Justice Visa’ for temporary migrants

New visa announced for temporary migrants who are the victims of workplace exploitation.

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The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles has announced a new visa stream for temporary migrants who are the victims of workplace exploitation.

In a significant move aimed at empowering vulnerable migrant workers and addressing workplace exploitation in the Australian labour market, the Albanese Government has announced the development of two pioneering pilot programs set to commence on 1 July.

The first of the two pilot programs focuses on introducing formal protections against visa cancellation, reassuring migrant workers that they can report wrongdoing and seek redress without fear of reprisal, even if they have breached work-based visa conditions. This workplace justice visa aims to instil confidence among vulnerable workers, encouraging early reporting and the resolution of workplace issues.

“Informed by a rigorous co-design process, the pilot programs will focus on introducing a formal protection against visa cancellation – to give people the confidence they can report wrongdoing and seek redress, even if they have breached a work-based visa condition,” said Mr Giles in a keynote address at the Law Council of Australia Conference held in Melbourne on Thursday.

The second pilot program, the workplace justice visa, is designed to provide temporary migrants with a unique avenue to remain in Australia while they pursue justice for workplace violations. This innovative concept aims to address the plight of individuals who find themselves trapped in exploitative employment situations, offering them a pathway to seek redress without jeopardising their immigration status.

“The pilots (including workplace justice visa) will commence on 1 July this year. New regulations will be tabled in Parliament to take effect, demonstrating to workers who have been exploited that these are not simply discretionary policies of the Government but the law of Australia,” said Mr Giles.

Mr Giles underscored the significance of these initiatives in addressing exploitation and vulnerability within the visa system. He emphasised that the pilots including workplace justice visa represent a pivotal step towards fostering a fairer and more equitable environment for all workers in Australia.

The new workplace visa will “demonstrate to these workers who have been exploited that these breaches will not be held against them, promoting the voices of those who are mistreated.”

“I will have more to say on these pilot programs in the coming months but I want to emphasise this: these new pilots are critically important to a visa system that can address exploitation and vulnerability, instead of simply ignoring it,” said the Minister.

In his keynote address, the Minister delivered a resolute message outlining the Albanese Government’s unwavering commitment to combatting the exploitation of individuals on temporary visas in Australia.

Giles highlighted the severity of the issue, acknowledging the widespread understanding within the community and among attendees regarding the detrimental effects of exploitation on the visa system. “It cannot be overstated how allowing exploitation to thrive eats away at a visa system,” he emphasised.

Reflecting on the harrowing tales of exploitation, Giles recounted instances where individuals were too intimidated to speak out, endured passport confiscation, and suffered physical and sexual abuse at workplace. He stressed the far-reaching implications of exploitation, asserting, “When those who are vulnerable have their wages stolen from them or worse, it hurts all of us.”

Giles pinpointed the significant role of workplace exploitation in driving down wages and conditions for temporary migrants, irrespective of nationality, while also underscoring the detrimental impact on ethical employers. “It is to our great shame that in the land of the ‘fair go,’ this behaviour has been tolerated for far too long,” he lamented.

Central to the Government’s strategy is the implementation of new compliance measures aimed at disrupting business models reliant on exploitative practices. Giles highlighted the introduction of prohibition measures targeting employers engaged in serious or repeated non-compliance, effectively preventing them from hiring new workers with temporary visas.

From July, employers who are barred from sponsoring new workers will also be liable to become prohibited employers – targeting the business model used by some to undermine wages and conditions across Australia. They will not be allowed to hire new staff if those workers hold a temporary visa.

“Let me be very clear: I intend to use the prohibition scheme for the purpose it was designed for as soon as the Act takes effect. From July, I will be writing to employers liable for prohibition and asking why they should not be prohibited from hiring workers on temporary visas,” said the Minister.

The Minister reiterated the Albanese government’s commitment to utilising these new powers effectively, ensuring procedural fairness and imposing increased penalties on non-compliant employers. He emphasised the importance of removing barriers to reporting exploitation, including the repeal of certain migration-related offences.

 

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