The issue of employment conditions of migrant workers was brought to the spotlight today by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA).

The national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, weighed in on the issue, expressing concerns over the findings of a report, titled Wage Theft In Silence: Why Migrant Workers Do Not Recover Their Unpaid Wages in Australia. 

Authored by senior law lecturers Bassina Farbenblum, from the University of New South Wales, and Laurie Berg, from the University of Technology Sydney, the report follows a survey of 4,322 international students, backpackers and other temporary migrant workers, finding that almost one in three earned no more than $12 an hour or less, about half the casual minimum wage.

In addition to that, one in four migrant workers expressed fears that their their immigration status would be impacted if they took action to reclaim wages, which is why they are reluctant to pursue it.

“It is deeply concerning that so few of these workers took action to claim their correct wages, despite knowing that they were being underpaid,”said FECCA chairperson, Mary Patetsos. “Employers need to step up and do the right thing.”

“FECCA believes there needs to be a better process for wage recovery, stronger support services and a guarantee that a worker’s visa will not be put at risk for reporting wage theft,” Ms Patetsos added.

“It is unacceptable that people know they are being underpaid but are afraid to report it.”