Warning Over Overseas Workers On 457 Visas Being Underpaid

The 457 visa is the most popular in Australia for short term workers, but those using it are being warned to stay vigilant after yet another case of people being underpaid.

Australia Forum, by Ray Clancy, 12 January 2015

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, said that a substantial fine has been imposed against a takeaway restaurant in Tasmania where a chef was underpaid.

She said it should be a warning to employers that the Australian government is actively pursuing businesses which deliberately underpay foreign workers.

The restaurant was fined $100,000 by a Tasmanian court this week for underpaying its Chinese chef by $86,000 over four years, after action was initiated by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

“This fine should serve as a reminder to employers of their obligations under the subclass 457 programme for sponsoring foreign workers,” Cash said.

“I am particularly concerned by reports that the sponsor had forced the chef to falsify records to indicate he was paid a flat rate for working a 38 hour week when he was in fact working 60 hours a week. Make no mistake, the government is committed to stamping out this type of exploitation,” she added.

Cash pointed out that the subclass 457 programme is intended to help local businesses recruit skilled workers from overseas, where there are genuine skills shortages locally. Measures in the 457 programme are intended to protect overseas skilled workers from exploitation by ensuring they are paid the equivalent Australian market wages and conditions as local workers.

“If a sponsor is found to have failed any of their obligations, the department can institute administrative sanctions, ban them from sponsoring workers for up to five years, fine them or apply to the Federal Court for a civil penalty order,” Cash said.

“In addition, a new Investigation Division being created within the merged Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Australian Customs Service on 01 July 2015 will only further strengthen the capacity of the Department to appropriately address integrity issues in the 457 programme,” she explained.

Cash also pointed out that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s last annual report shows the number of sponsors monitored in 2013/2014 increased by almost 20% compared to the previous year.

“The former Labour Government significantly reduced resourcing to adequately monitor Australia’s skilled migration programme while demand for such monitoring increased,” said Cash.

“The Coalition Government’s increased focus on compliance is producing excellent results. The number of sponsors sanctioned in 2013/2014 increased by 68% compared to the previous year,” she added.

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