Chair's Public Statement October 2016 meeting

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Professor Allan Fels AO, Chair of the Migrant Workers' Taskforce

October 2016

The Migrant Workers' Taskforce established by Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, has held its first meeting. I thank members for their participation. 

This Taskforce builds on announcements already made by the Government and is focussed on actions to address the scourge of exploitation of migrant workers.

The Taskforce agreed on four areas of action for its initial focus:

  • Better communication with visa holders so that they are aware of their workplace rights and who they can get assistance from
  • Stronger measures to prevent workplace exploitation and to ensure adequate redress when it occurs
  • More effective enforcement, including adherence by workers to visa restrictions, but particularly a greater emphasis on compliance by employers
  • Ensuring that policy frameworks and regulatory settings appropriately address the required objectives

The Taskforce brings together a wide range of Commonwealth agencies, each with a particular part to play in tackling this issue, including, workplace protection, immigration, law enforcement and taxation. 

It was agreed that a more proactive approach to dealing with the problems of exploitation of migrant workers was critical and that the issues were attacked in a systemic way.

The Migrant Workers' Taskforce came about particularly because of the underpayment and exploitation of temporary visa holders employed by 7-Eleven that was publicly exposed by the media. The community was shocked that the issue was systemic within 7-Eleven franchisees across Australia and had been going on for a long time. The Taskforce will write to 7-Eleven seeking information about its repayment programme and its plans for compliance with workplace laws.  

The Minister emphasised that 7-Eleven has a moral obligation to rectify underpayments to employees in its network.

She has established clear expectations for the Taskforce and set the goal that over the next 18 months we will have made a real difference. 

The next meeting of the Taskforce will be in January 2017.