Melbourne: A new study has found that Australian employers and managers, often of Indian ethnicity, frequently exploit their fellow Indian blue-collar workers who come here on temporary visas and often face harsh working conditions.
A three-year-long qualitative study by Macquarie University, titled `Precarious experiences of Indians in Australia on 457 temporary work visas`, found that Indian visa holders faced numerous problems with regard to securing work, and their treatment at work once they were employed.
Workers in non-unionised, sub-contracting or small businesses employed by `co-ethnics` are the most vulnerable and the worst cases involved Indian-owned enterprises such as restaurants.
The most vulnerable group identified in the study were individual workers in small Indian restaurants.
It was also found that in this case, Indian employers justified their treatment of their 457-visa workers saying that "this is what these workers are used to in their own country."
It was found during the survey of over 40 people that many who paid thousands of Australian dollars to secure employment before arriving in the country, were later told that they were no longer needed.
Problems such as long hours, up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without paid overtime, being forced to work in unsafe conditions, being forced to perform tasks they were not trained to do, and sick leave being deducted from annual leave despite medical certificates, were also found.
Some employees also complained that when they told their supervisors about their treatment and why it was not at par with local colleagues "their employers told them that overseas workers do not have the same rules of pay and employment as local workers."
The study found that the worst forms of exploitation occurred in co-ethnic work environments, when the employer or manager was also of Indian origin.
457-visa holders were often unable to seek help and advice due to poor English skills, work hours that meant they had no time for leisure or otherwise, and contracts (often illegal) stating they were forbidden from seeking other employment.
Many also reported feeling trapped by family and kinship links to their employers.
Some reported their employers threatened to kill them or harm their families in India if they didn`t comply with the unreasonable demands.
The study shows that even though temporary skilled migration (457-visa class) to Australia is steadily increasing, "the level of support services available for this group appear severely lacking compared to permanent migrants and local workers."
It says that temporary migrant workers need to be better informed of their visa status, labour entitlements and the range of support services available to them while living in Australia.