Exploitation of workers refers to the action of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work. Exploitation is not voluntary, but rather achieved through threats and acts of violence, hence why it is a violation of human rights. Examples of how migrant workers are exploited include working long hours, not getting the correct wage for which they work, not having safety in the workplace, secure employment, freedom from sexual harassment or being able to speak out the problems they are facing in their work environment. Although temporary migrants only make up about 10% of Australia’s workforce, they are systematically underpaid. The report of the Migrant Workers Taskforce, released in March 2019, states that as many as 50 percent of migrant workers in Australia are underpaid. Many of these migrants never get back their unpaid wages and entitlements. A potential way to fix this problem in Australia would be to enforce harsher penalties on employers who take advantage of migrant workers, because as it stands, many companies are not taking responsibility or receiving consequences for their poor treatment of migrant workers.
This is an ethical issue as it involves the Australian government making a decision on whether the current penalties for migrant exploitation in the workplace need to be amended. No matter what happens, there will be consequences. If harsher penalties are put in place, it may result in a better working environment for migrant workers, however, changing the penalties can be time consuming and costly. On the other hand, if the government choose to do nothing and things remain the way they are, many migrants will continue to have to work in terrible conditions, constantly at risk of losing everything. The current conditions many migrants work in in Australia violate their rights to freedom and security, and in severe cases, slavery and inhumane treatment. Enforcing harsher penalties on employers for this kind of treatment may discourage them from continuing to do so. An example of someone who has suffered from exploitation is Fu Cong, a Chinese migrant who was forced to leave China and had no where else to go. Cong arrived in Australia to seek freedom and justice, and after being granted a visa with working rights, he found a job with a printing company in Melbourne. The work was difficult, however it was steady employment and Cong was slowly able to rebuild his life in Australia. In October 2018, the printing compared declared bankruptcy without warning. In 2012, the Australian government established the Fair Entitlement Guarantee (FEG), which protects the employees of companies which go bankrupt. Australian citizens and permanent residents are entitled to up to 13 weeks of unpaid wages, as well as any unpaid annual leave and redundancy pay, but migrant workers such as Cong receive nothing. Because of this, Cong was left with over $5000 of unpaid wages. More than 900,000 temporary migrants in Australia with work rights are excluded from the FEG, even though there have been repeated calls that they are some of the most vulnerable workers in Australia and are at significant risk of exploitation by companies going into liquidation, and should be protected.
There are many different groups who have opinions on this issue. While most support migrant workers and want to fight for their rights in the workplace, there are doubts about whether enforcing harsher penalties is the easiest way to fix this issue. The farming industry is the biggest culprit in exploitation of migrant workers, however the National Farmers Federation suggested criminal sanctions were ‘absolutely appropriate’ when deliberate exploitation was uncovered. Migrant workers obviously want to fight for their rights, but many are unable to speak up in fear of losing everything they have earned. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organisation that provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants, including refugees and migrant workers. The IOM in Australia works to improve working conditions for migrants and helps individuals who believe they aren’t being treated fairly. IOM Country Office for Australia has coordinating and liaison functions with the Government of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific to help build the governments of other nations to better manage migration and address a broad range of issues affecting migrants across the globe. The catholic belief is that migrants deserve the right to work
in a safe and happy environment without fear of being exploited. The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. Catholics do not have much influence at all on this issue though, as they are not a figure of authority and have no power in the decision making. Despite this, there is strength in numbers and if everyone who shared this belief rallied together it may create quicker change. The group with the most influence in this debate is the Australian Government, because ultimately, they make the final decision on what the penalties are and have all the power in determining the outcome. The Government has already uncovered “persistent” underpayment of Korean workers in Australia and shared its support to enforce harsher penalties on employers as exploitation of workers is illegal and it hurts Australia’s global reputation. Utilitarianism is the main ethical decision making method used, as they need to put any personal bias aside and decide what is best for the majority.
In conclusion, exploitation of migrant workers is a much bigger problem than most people think, however there is a lot of hope that it will eventually end. The Australian Government have been taking steps towards fixing the issue and are showing positive signs of making further progress. The support being shown for the rights of migrant workers in Australia is overwhelming, and hopefully we soon can work towards reaching this level of support on a global scale.