Serious threat to the WHV by the ACTU

January 22nd, 2019 | | 88 days

Labor and the union movement has sparked a pre-election war with farmers over its plan to restrict access to working holiday maker visas. From The Daily Telegraph:

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is using its influence to pressure Bill Shorten to review the scheme with a view to ban backpackers working for a second year and put further restrictions on work in the first year…

In a submission to a Senate inquiry, the ACTU called for a review of the scheme pushing for the government to cap the number of visas handed out, ban job ads that advertise only for working holiday visa holders and abandon the second year of the program.

It also proposed work rights attached to the visa be remodelled so that it „operates as a genuine holiday visa with some work rights attached, rather than a visa which in practice allows visa holders to work for the entire duration of their stay in Australia”.

An ACTU spokesman said the union was concerned the visa had been „abused by big business to exploit visa holders and to deny locals access to opportunities”…

Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann refused to rule out backing the proposal and told The Daily Telegraph the number of temporary visa holders in Australia with work rights was „too high”.

The National Farmers’ Federation labelled the demands „ill-considered, ill-conceived and smack of ‘dog-whistle’ politics” and warned politicians against acting on it.

Late last year, a group of academics – Joanna Howe, Alex Reilly, Stephen Clibborn, Diane van den Broek & Chris F Wrightjointly penned an article in Fairfax claiming that the exploitation of temporary migrant workers increased in the wake of visa reforms in 2005 which allowed backpackers to extend their visa for a second year:

Australia already has more backpackers, and relies more strongly on them for horticultural work, than any country. Since 2005, working holiday visa holders can extend their visa for a second year if they work for 88 days in a specified regional industry…

The visa extension makes backpackers dependent on employers – a recipe for exploitation. And it fails to oblige employers to protect against exploitation…

Fair Work Ombudsman report found that the 88-day requirement created a „cultural mindset amongst many employers” where they consider hiring backpackers wanting a visa extension „a licence to determine the status, conditions and remuneration levels of workers … without reference to Australian workplace laws”.

Unlike agricultural visas in New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and unlike Australia’s own Pacific seasonal worker program, there is no pre-approval of employers. Nor is there systematic ongoing regulation to ensure compliance with workplace laws…

The Byte has already written a number of stories on the exploration of backpackers and international students

Several major studies have also found that backpackers are ripe for exploitation.

In 2016, the Fair Work Ombudsman undertook an inquiry into Australia’s backpacker visa scheme, which noted that „many backpackers are being subjected to underpayment or non-payment, unlawful deductions, sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions and other forms of exploitation”.

The Senate’s scathing report, entitled A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders, also documented the abuses of Australia’s Working Holiday Maker visas system, which was „consistently reported to suffer widespread exploitation in the Australian workforce”.

Whereas the 2017 National Temporary Migrant Work Survey found that one in every seven temporary migrant fruit and vegetable pickers were paid $5 an hour or less, and a third earned $10 an hour or less.

Given the documented abuses, Labor and the unions are well justified in seeking to curb the abuse of the working holiday maker visa scheme.

ED: This move by the ACTU is a series threat to the opportunity for young people to come and experience Australia on a WHV. 

What do you think – comments please.

Source: Daily Telegraph and

Sourced by Mike Barrow

2 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    This happens every day and something needs to change. I see so many bacpackers working for free on a so called internship, I do think this is modern day slavery. Have a look at what unions have done for us Australians so far.

    Redundancy pay
    The Arbitration Commission introduced the first Termination, Change and Redundancy Clause into awards due to work by metalworkers and their union. This entitled workers to redundancy pay.

    Allowances: shift allowance, uniform allowance

    Unions in different industries have campaigned for allowances that pertain to their members. Many workers who are required to wear uniforms in their jobs, get an allowance for this rather than having to pay for uniforms themselves.

    Shift allowances are money that’s paid for working at night or in the afternoon. Different industries have different allowances that were won by workers and their unions over the years.

    Meal Breaks, rest breaks

    Before unions agitated for meal breaks and rest breaks to be introduced, workers were required to work the whole day without a break. In 1973, workers at Ford in Melbourne engaged in industrial action over many issues, one of their demands being a proper break from the production line.

    Collective Bargaining

    Enterprise Bargaining was introduced in 1996 which allowed workers and their unions to negotiate directly with their employer over pay and conditions. Evidence from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that collective bargaining delivers better wages than individual agreements for ordinary workers.

    Unfair Dismissal Protection

    Unfair Dismissal Protection came from the concept of a “fair go all round”, after the Australian Workers Union took a case to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on behalf of a worker who had been unfairly sacked in 1971. Since then, unions have campaigned for laws that reflect that ‘fair go’ principle, which is about having a valid reason to sack someone and that the dismissal cannot be harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

    If you cannot afford the wages don’t employ the person.

  2. It is not the just agricultural industry that benefits from having the working holiday visas. Tourism is very dependent on the scheme.
    Better regulation and monitoring of the working conditions will help to reduce the abuse of workers and encourage more backpackers to stay longer, work and spend money in the country.
    Backpackers are more likely to take on casual jobs with no long term employment prospects than permanent residents. These casual jobs can allow the backpackers time to be tourists in the region while being able to stay longer as a result of being able to earn some income.

    Paul Crocombe
    Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive.