Fair Work Ombudsman audits Murray Bridge businesses in foreign worker exploitation crackdown

File photo.
File photo.

Retailers, eateries and accommodation providers in Murray Bridge are being targeted by a crackdown on exploitation of foreign workers.

More than 200 businesses in the Murraylands, Riverland and South East are being visited by Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors.

Payslips and time records will be checked to ensure employers are not taking advantage of vulnerable, low-skilled workers.

Ombudsman Natalie James said south-eastern South Australia had one of the highest rates of disputes launched by visa holders.

"Overseas workers can be vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace due to factors including a lack of awareness about workplace rights and language barriers,” she said.

"My agency is undertaking this education and compliance campaign to reinforce to businesses in the region the importance of understanding and complying with their workplace obligations."

Inspectors will offer help and advice to businesses who have made genuine, minor mistakes.

But Ms James said serious cases of non-compliance could end up in court.

"Where businesses refuse to cooperate with my agency, or where our inspectors identify instances of serious or deliberate non-compliance, we will ensure that appropriate action is taken to enforce the law," Ms James said.

"Employers must be aware that deliberately flouting workplace laws can result in significant consequences."

The Ombudsman recovered more than $320,000 in back pay on behalf of 179 workers in the region between 2014 and 2016.

Local employer groups, unions and councils have been notified about the campaign.

  • More information: Visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call 13 13 94 or, for non-English speakers, 13 14 50.