When young Vietnamese chef Dung Nguyen arrived in Australia to study English, he paid $20,000 on the promise he would receive a 457 visa and a good-paying job.
AAP, 14 August 2013
Instead, the 25-year-old was paid $15 an hour to work as a cleaner and painter at a Sydney restaurant, before being sacked when he asked for a pay rise.
"I have asked for my money back (from the organisation) but they have refused," Dung says.
He is just one of thousands of migrant workers being used and abused by "unscrupulous" employers and migration agents, according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
"Too many live in fear of speaking out against their boss or are deep in debt to unscrupulous migration agents," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.
To combat this, the union launched a national campaign on Wednesday calling for migrant workers to be afforded greater protections.
The "Aussie Work, Aussie Rights" campaign is calling for whistleblower laws to protect anyone reporting their employer for exploiting workers, and a public register for all 457 employers.
It follows changes to the 457 visa program earlier this year, which mean employers now need to prove they can't find Australian staff before hiring temporary migrant workers.
Mr Sheldon says he supports those changes but the scheme requires "further improvements".
"That's about making transparency and making accountability (of employers)," Mr Sheldon told AAP.
"Exploitation has to come to an end," he said.
He has called on politicians of all colours to sign an online pledge in support of the campaign, adding that he's concerned that an incoming coalition government would unwind the changes that have already been made.
"There's ... a need to safeguard what has been won legislatively," Mr Sheldon said.