Employers of overseas workers must ensure their temporary sponsored workers have the same terms and conditions for the same job in the same workplace as Australian workers. There must be no exploitation and no excuses for underpaying overseas workers.
We have said before that when sponsors inadvertently, recklessly or systematically abuse and/or exploit their visa holders and the program, we can and do take action.
During the 2011-12 financial year, the department conducted more than 1000 site visits to sponsors, and sanctioned 125 of them. Further, the department issued 49 infringement notices for failure of the obligations, totalling $219 120.
In addition to applying administrative sanctions and issuing infringements, the department has become increasingly active in referring cases to civil litigation.
On 28 June, a Victorian based sponsor, Sahan Enterprises Pty Ltd, became the first sponsor to face the Federal Magistrates Court under the Migration Act 1958. The court found failures of two sponsorship obligations: the obligation to pay equivalent terms and conditions, and the obligation to keep appropriate pay records. The consequence of these failures was that the court issued a pecuniary penalty of $35 000 plus almost $11 000 in court costs. In handing down the decision, the magistrate placed weight upon the vulnerability of the sponsored person, and noted that as a group, sponsored workers are especially vulnerable.
Now that this precedent has been set, the department will continue to promote the message to sponsors to comply with their sponsorship obligations or, potentially, face the pecuniary consequences.
What’s next for monitoring?
While the overwhelming majority of sponsors are compliant, the department remains committed to strengthening the integrity ofAustralia’s skilled visa programs by identifying and penalising employers of sponsored workers who fail to comply with their obligations. To this end, we will continue to focus on campaign based monitoring in the coming months.