Survey Confirms Widespread Exploitation of Migrants

Retail Supply Chain Alliance

The survey released today by the Migrant Justice Institute, which indicates that most migrant workers in Australia are experience systemic exploitation, supports previous research from unions and the government must now act, according to the Retail Supply Chain Alliance. After surveying over 15,000 migrant workers over the past five years, the Migrant Justice Institute found around three quarters of migrant workers are suffering from systemic exploitation and earn below the casual minimum wage.A quarter earn less than half the minimum wage. Nine in 10 underpaid workers suffered in silence and took no action. This confirms findings from the Retail Supply Chain Alliance, comprising the Shop, Distributive, and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU). A blitz by the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2020 found that no less than two thirds of orchards in and around Coffs Harbour were underpaying their pickers. “For too many employers, exploitation is a business model,” said SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer. “It is un-Australian and must stop. It has no place in an economy where skills are short, company profits are at historic highs and wages are failing to keep up with the cost of living “The SDA supports the Migrant Justice Institute and Human Rights Law Centre, and the Breaking the Silence proposal urging the Federal government to establish whistleblower protections that would enable migrant workers to report exploitation without risking their visa. AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the findings aligned with his union’s experience in the regions and the bush. “It is sadly routine to hear horrifying stories of exploitation from migrant workers employed in Australia’s fruit picking industry. The way our visa programs have been designed, combined with a striking absence of strong regulation and enforcement, creates a toxic cocktail for many migrant workers. “I know elements of the farming lobby and the Nationals will always try to claim that we can’t afford to treat migrant workers with basic rights and dignity. This position is immoral and illogical. “Paying farm workers a reasonable wage will mean money will flow into regional towns. It will boost the economy and jobs in regional communities.” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the government needed to be very careful not to make the problem worse. “We need whistleblower protections so that migrant workers aren’t scared to speak up if they’re being exploited,” Mr Kaine said. “Exploitation thrives in the dark. If an international student is being ripped off by her employer she should be able to come forward with confidence and be protected from the threat of having her visa canceled for exceeding her cap of hours.”

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