Academics confirm temporary migrant workers more exploited than permanent migrants

April 10, 2018: Sydney University academics Stephen Clibborn and Chris Wright argue in the SMH today that from the 1940s to the 1990s, Australia’s permanent immigration program and strongly enforced labour standards protected the workplace rights of permanent migrants.

But now the large numbers of temporary migrant workers tied to one employer are more vulnerable to exploitation because they can be deported if they lose their job. Clibborn and Wright suggest that rather than dwelling on the size of the permanent immigration intake, Australia’s political and community leaders need to fix the flawed policies that have allowed too many unscrupulous employers to steal the wages of temporary migrant workers.

They zero in on the range of temporary work visas which give undue power to employers to exploit; and on the restrictions on the right of unions to enter workplaces to police enterprise agreements and award standards.

However these authors do not mention the use of trade agreements to boost temporary worker numbers without any testing of the local labour market to fill the jobs.

Under the TPP-11 which is now being considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and a Senate inquiry, Australia would expand the number of countries which could supply temporary labor without labour market testing to include Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Chile.

By including temporary migrant workers in a trade agreement, the government is blatantly treating them as tradable commodities, rather than as human beings.

We need both urgent action on union rights and a return to a permanent immigration program, and an end to the inclusion of temporary migrant workers in trade agreements like the TPP-11.