Australia fines tech companies for exploiting foreign tech workers

Everything down under wants to either kill you, or underpay you

Border Force, Australia's law enforcement agency for immigration matters, has fined a pair of companies for exploiting techies who came to work under a temporary visa scheme aimed at addressing skills shortages.

That Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) scheme requires employers to sponsor visiting workers, and obliges them to ensure visa holders exercise the in-demand skills. Foreign temps must also be paid the same as their Australian peers.

Border Force (ABF) received tipoffs and a referral from Australia's Department of Home Affairs suggesting that two employers – heavy users of the TSS scheme – were not compliant with those requirements.

Probes followed, both of which included interviews with workers on TSS visas.

At one company ABF found eleven failures of sponsorship obligations – nine of which were instances of underpayment.

A second investigation of another employer found visa holders were not working in their nominated professions. That probe ran for 15 months and again detected 11 failures – workers were not doing the jobs they were sponsored to perform.

The two firms were each fined AUD$90,750 ($59,000) – which would not be colossal salary for a skilled techie in Australia.

But news of the noncompliance will sting. The very reason the TSS program exists is to lure techies to Australian shores to address local skills shortages. Tales of exploitation or unexpected experiences may make recruitment harder.

Throw in rampant rent rises in Australia, an acute shortage of housing, and the plethora of deadly creatures found in the one-time prison colony, and techies who fancy an adventure abroad have an increasing number of reasons to consider other nations.

"Everybody working in Australia has the right to be paid properly, including workers who are holders of sponsored visas," said ABF acting superintendent Jessica Fensling. "The ABF regularly undertakes targeted sponsor compliance activities to ensure businesses sponsoring visa holders are not underpaying workers or breaching their sponsorship obligations."

Fensling added that TSS cheats are made to repay wages owed to employees on top of the fines. They can also have their sponsorship agreements cancelled and be barred from further applications. ®

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