The Transport Workers’ Union is calling for migrant workers to have mandatory access to union representatives to ensure they are informed of their rights and can seek help if they are being exploited.
TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 5 May 2015
State and federal governments must urgently provide these training sessions for migrant workers to put an end to slave-like conditions shown by the ABC 4 Corner’s documentary.
The TWU has for years been highlighting exploitation in the migrant visa system. Figures released to the TWU under FOI last December showed a spike in abuse of 457 visa holders. “Documents we have show one in five employers breached salary and occupation rules for their 457 visa workers,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
“When you extort rights under the threats of deportation and losing your job you undermine the rights of every Australian worker,” he said.
“The system is tipped in favour of companies bringing in workers to make as much money as they can out of them. It is now time to tip the balance in favour of workers and give them their rights and dignity back,” Sheldon added.
Major retailers were shown to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of young vulnerable migrants working for them through cheap labour hire companies in their supply chain. In the same way truck drivers are forced to skip breaks, speed and drive for longer because wealthy retailers are continually driving down transport costs.
The low wages and pressure drivers are under ultimately leads to horrific deaths on our roads. The National Transport Commission’s report on Remuneration and Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry (2008) said practices by the retail industry affecting road transport “can play a direct and significant role in causing hazardous practices”.
The TWU’s aviation workers suffer also through supply chain abuse with Qantas hiring workers through labour hire companies paying the lowest wages. The 2011 census showed one in five aviation workers earned less than the poverty line.
“The Government is doing nothing about the exploitation of aviation workers because of the cosy relationship with an LNP former staffer now working with Qantas. This is yet another example of greed at the top while workers suffer at the bottom,” said Sheldon.