On Wednesday 6 November 2019 the Migrant Employment Legal Service (MELS) will launch at the St George Migrant Information Day. NSW Attorney-General, the Hon. Mark Speakman SC MP will be in attendance as guest speaker in support of the inauguration.
The Inner City Legal Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre, Marrickville Legal Centre and Redfern Legal Centre have together established the service to address the employment exploitation of migrant workers in NSW. MELS seeks to address the unique challenges faced by migrant workers through the provision of free legal advice, legal representation and engaging with communities to provide information and education.
“The Migrant Employment Legal Service is an exciting collaboration between four vibrant Sydney community legal centres,” says ICLC Centre Director Vicki Harding.
“These centres, with expertise in legal issues that might confront employees, know that there is significant need for employment legal assistance for the culturally and linguistically diverse communities in NSW. We are grateful to the NSW government for supporting the establishment of a service that will fill this gap.”
The team at MELS have already hit the ground running, meeting with culturally and linguistically diverse groups across the greater Sydney region to promote the free, confidential service.
MELS Project Coordinator Thina Balakisnan shares “[MELS] is a much-needed service and whilst we’re still in the early days of promoting it, our interactions with various communities have been promising. Communities are very interested in learning and promoting employment rights – we’re eager to see how this translates to reducing migrant worker exploitation.”
Redfern Legal Centre’s employment law solicitor, Sharmilla Bargon, explains why migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace exploitation.
“Unscrupulous businesses exploit migrants by offering work that is well below the legal rate of pay,” Ms Bargon said.
“This pressures migrant workers into breaching their visa conditions. We have seen certain visa holders forced into working over their legally-allowed limit of 40 hours per fortnight, just to survive. If the migrant worker complains, the employer threatens to ‘get them deported’. This creates a culture of silence around wage theft and other forms of exploitation.”
MELS and its four partnered community legal centres anticipate that the state-wide service will raise community awareness and become of great support to the public.
The launch of Migrant Employment Legal Service at St George Migrant Information Day is hosted by Advanced Diversity Services at Civic Theatre, Hurstville Entertainment Centre. For those interested to attend the free event on Wednesday 6 November from 10.15am to 11am, registration is recommended at the following link: https://events.humanitix.com.au/mels_launch
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