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The New NSW Government Legal Service Helping Migrant Workers Facing Employment Exploitation

The New NSW Government Legal Service Helping Migrant Workers Facing Employment Exploitation

The Migrant Employment Legal Service will provide free legal advice and legal education for migrant workers facing workplace exploitation.

12th November 2019

There are many ways to obtain free legal advice in Australia. Earlier this week, the NSW government launched a free legal assistance program called the Migrant Employment Legal Service, with $1.6million in funding over the next 3 years. International students and other short-term migrants facing exploitation at work can now access free legal assistance. The Migrant Employment Legal Service also offers legal representation and community legal education for migrants who are victims of wage theft or have been unfairly dismissed.

Four NSW based community legal centres played a large role in establishing the service. The Inner City Legal Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre, Marrickville Legal Centre and Redfern Legal Centre all recognised the need for greater legal aid for migrant workers.

The service arises after the Federal government determined greater resources were needed to enforce current employment laws. The recent $300 million underpayment of Woolworth’s staff has also been a driving factor in this initiative. Temporary migrants in NSW also make up a substantial 11% of the national workforce, further highlighting the need for this service.

The team at the Migration Employment Legal Service have already begun reaching out to communities in Western Sydney. This includes groups such as the Asian Women at Work inc, the Assyrian Resource Centre and CORE Community Services.

What kind of issues can be considered?

Common workplace complaints include underpayment and non-payment of wages, bullying and sexual harassment. Migrant workers experiencing these problems can face unique challenges when seeking help. Attorney General Mark Speakman assisted with the program’s launch. He noted that migrant wage theft doesn’t just happen in fruit picking or smaller business but also occurs in large organisations. The Attorney General estimated that around 1000 people will be able to access legal assistance through the program every year. Subsequently every week, there will be approximately 30 appointments available to obtain legal employment advice.

How to use the service.

The Migration Employment Legal Service can be contacted on 02 8002 1203 (Mon-Fri, 9am to 5pm). From there you can make a free and confidential appointment with a lawyer. If you feel this isn’t sufficient to meet your needs then it is advisable to contact an employment lawyer.

Conclusion

The Migration Employment Legal Service provides legal representation, aid and education. International students and migrants are able to use the service. Issues the service deal with can range from underpayment of wages to bullying or sexual harassment. However, the first step should always be to speak to your employer and try and resolve the issue. For new migrants the NSW Government also offers a guide with important information concerning settling in NSW.

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Author
Gopi Giri

Gopi currently works in the content team as a Legal Intern for Lawpath. He is in his fourth year of a Bachelor of Law and Commerce (Accounting) at Macquarie University. Gopi is interested in cyber law and future innovations in the legal industry.