457 Visa is one of the most abused job purpose Visa Scheme in Australia by unscrupulous employers and immigration agents. Taking a special note of the Indian diaspora here; we have a history of milking all available loop holes in any Government scheme to fill our pockets by unscrupulous ways and means. Whether it is vocational education, council elections, job network schemes, home insulation scheme or solar panels, we have found a way to exploit the system and make money out of it.
But the temporary work visa schemes have become –“The Indians exploit the Indians scheme”. The only other community known to have superseded us in this matter is the Chinese.
There are many ways 457 visa holders are exploited
- The employer collects a large sum beforehand from the applicant for sponsoring. Many willing to pay enormous sums as 457 visa is a pathway to Australian permanent residency.
- The ignorant employers willingly paying below minimum wages to the employees.
- The employer pays legally correct wages but the workers are forced to repay a portion of their wages back to the employer. This way the records don’t leave any proof for breach of law.
- The employees are forced to work overtime and not remunerated for their overtime hours.
- Workers are intimidated and threatened with instant dismissal to deter them from making complaints to the authorities.
Most 457 Visa holders hold back from making a complaint out of gratitude towards the sponsor though they are paid meagre wages and subjected to pathetic working conditions. In fact these sponsors have done no favour to the exploited other than a greed fuelled robbery and mistreatment.
In the early stages of a migrant’s life in Australia – ignorance about Australian way of life and legal system, lack of social contacts and insufficient money in hand may stymie their efforts to rise above the injustice. But Australia is a country proud of its reputation for fairness. They are many laws and organisations to protect temporary workers in Australia from being exploited.
The rights of 457 Visa holders
The employers have obligations to provide sponsored visa holder on a Temporary work or 457 visa under migration law in addition to workplace law which is applicable to all workers in Australia.
You have a right to have equivalent terms and conditions of employment to those provided to an Australian performing equivalent work in the same location
You need to work only in the occupation, program or activity for which you were nominated
The employer should not recover, transfer or charge certain costs to you or another person (for example, recruitment costs, sponsorship/nomination fees, migration agent costs)
The employer has an obligation, if requested in writing, pay reasonable and necessary travel costs to allow you and your family members to leave Australia.
If you feel that you are unfairly treated with respect to your rights as an employee, you can make a complaint to the ombudsman even if you have finished working for the employer. You will be entitled for compensation if your claims are found to be true. The buck don’t stop there, As a human being you have a responsibility to ensure that your employer is punished by the law so that no one else will undergo the misery you have been through.
What you should do?
Most of the time, the employer threatens the employee to cancel their visa if they go against the whims of the employer. But the truth is that your employer cannot cancel your visa. Only the Department of Immigration and Border Protection can grant, refuse or cancel visas. Visa cancellation is not automatic in circumstances where a visa holder has breached their visa conditions. If you are under consideration for visa cancellation, you will have the opportunity to provide reasons as to why your visa should not be cancelled.
The law will be more sympathetic towards you than towards the employer. The reason being, the law doesn’t expect you be an expert on Australian legal system but expects the employer to be.
You need to prepare the evidence from the beginning and can do the following things.
- keep a diary of days and hours worked
- keep copies or records of employment details, pay slips, agreements and superannuation and tax documents.
- Keep records of anything that you think will work in your favour.
The first step for you to do is contact Fair Work Ombudsman. The details can be found below.
In Australia pay rates and workplace conditions are set by Australian law.
Details about – The Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) provides information on pay rates, shift calculations, leave arrangements and notice and redundancy entitlements. https://calculate.fairwork.gov.au/
The Fair Work Ombudsman can give you further information and advice about your workplace rights and obligations, and has workplace information translated into different languages. https://www.fairwork.gov.au/find-help-for/visa-holders-and-migrants
Your rights and protections include workplace health and safety matters.
If you need an interpreter, you can contact the Translating and Interpreting Service https://www.tisnational.gov.au/en
Recent verdicts on temporary visa exploitation in Australia