Australia

Ady moved to Australia for a better life. It took him years to realise his employer was exploiting him

KEY POINTS
  • A new report found thousands of job ads in Australia’s top eight industries offered illegal pay rates.
  • Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said it was disturbing some employers were still targeting migrant workers.
  • The federal government is working on reforms that would make it easier for migrant workers to speak out.
Ady Manzoor moved to Australia seven years ago from India in search of a better life. Instead, he found himself being exploited by his employer.
While working for a major convenience store chain, Mr Manzoor recalled working back-to-back shifts from 6am till midnight for three days in a row.
Between his 18-hour-long work days, he slept in his car before heading back to his next shift.
“At the time I didn’t even realise what was happening to me. It took me years to realise I was being exploited,” he said.
“I was brainwashed to think that working more hours meant more money, instead of just being paid the right amount.”

Mr Manzoor is far from alone, with a thriving underbelly of exploited migrant workers being highlighted in Australia in a new report by Unions NSW.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the federal government was working towards reforms to make it easier for migrant workers to speak out. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

The report, released on Monday, showed more than 60 per cent of job advertisements reviewed in the nation’s top eight industries offered illegal pay rates.

Most of the 7,000 job ads surveyed for the report were in a foreign language suggesting many workers are being taken advantage of by those within their own diaspora communities.
More than one-third of migrant workers surveyed reported being paid or offered a lower salary because of their visa type, and more than one-quarter said they received lesser salaries because of their nationality.
Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles said the federal government was working towards reforms to make it easier for to speak out.
“Building trust for people to come forward is the single most important thing we need to do,” Mr Giles said.
“Workers need to feel that there is an avenue where they can come forward to report exploitation without being deported.”
Unions NSW has called for greater protections for migrant workers, including a “firewall” between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs that prevents visa-related repercussions.

The current “assurance protocol”, intended to protect workers who speak out from facing backlash due to their visa status, has been proven to be inadequate, according to Mr Giles.

He said there have only been 77 instances where the protocol has been invoked in the past five years, demonstrating a system viewed with intense suspicion by workers on temporary visas.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said it was disturbing some employers were still targeting workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“Australia is a country that has given migrants for 200 years an opportunity for a better life,” Mr Morey said.

“The current system that was established by the former coalition government…is set up to facilitate ongoing exploitation.”

Mr Manzoor said he felt the issue had been ignored for so long because Australians were willing to put up with migrant workers being mistreated.
“Why hasn’t anything been done for so long, until now?” Mr Manzoor said.
“The only reason I can think of is because it’s migrant workers.”
Unions NSW wants a new substantive visa to allow workers with outstanding claims for workplace entitlements to remain in the country with working rights until their claim has been settled.

It says restrictions that intensify exploitation should be lifted, and all visa types should provide a clear and reliable pathway to permanent residency.

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