Overhaul of Visa arrangements needed to ensure no repeat of 7-Eleven Disaster

The exploitation of workers in stores like 7-Eleven will continue unless the International working Visa system is overhauled, and the Federal Government guarantees foreign workers being exploited in Australia are given immediate immigration amnesty, the retail workers’ union says.

In its submission to the Senate Education and Employment References Committee, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) said the Fair Work Ombudsman also needs a substantial boost in resources in order to be able to properly identify and address the exploitation by 7-Eleven franchisees.

SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said now that evidence of exploitation of workers in stores like 7-Eleven has been revealed, the onus is on the Federal Government to take immediate action to protect workers and overhaul the system to ensure the culture of exploitation is rubbed out.

It is critical the Federal Government makes significant changes to ensure we don’t see a repeat of the 7-Eleven disaster,” Mr Dwyer said.

The current visa system, particularly the student visa system, leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation.  The Federal Government has a responsibility to close the loopholes that are putting workers coming to Australia at risk.

“As it currently stands, the visa conditions and also the immigration concerns are providing the perfect environment to unscrupulous employers to take advantage of international works.

“The situation 7-Eleven workers have found themselves in is deplorable.  The Federal Government has a responsibility to act quickly to weed out other places where workers are being exploited and to stoop this from happening again.  That means overhauling the visa system, providing an amnesty for existing workers, stronger organising rights for union and giving more resources to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

In its submission to the Senate hearing, the SDA reveals that despite being among the most precarious group of workers, only one in ten requests for assistance to the Fair Work Ombudsman come from temporary migrants, yet when the FWO investigates on their behalf, its results are significant.  In the first 9 months of 2015, the FWO has recovered $1.281 million for 345 temporary migrant workers.

“The system is set up to be played by dodgy employers.  There’s a real chance that 7-Eleven could be the tip of the iceberg.  If that’s the case, we need to put changes in place now to bring about a cultural shift.

“The Federal Government can’t continue to turn a blind eye to this.”


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