Unsavoury Employer Practices: Understanding Temporary Migrant Work in the Australian Food Services Sector Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Why do employers in specific sectors use migrant workers to a significant extent? Taking temporary migrant work in the Australian food services sector as a case study, this article argues that employer demand for migrant workers is shaped by two forms of social regulation: the immigration controls that create a supply of different kinds of migrant workers, and the labour market norms and institutions that operate within a specific industrial sector. Specifically, the article argues that the cost-minimization strategy of the Australian food services sector in conjunction with its precarious work norms result in ‘demand’ on the part of employers in the sector for vulnerable workers to perform precarious jobs. Such ‘demand’ is met in part by the workers supplied through temporary labour migration programs who may be an attractive form of precarious labour because of the conditionalities they experience. The normalization of noncompliance with labour laws by food services employers, that stems from the broader culture of illegality in the sector, further heightens the vulnerability (and attractiveness) of temporary migrant labour, allowing employers to ‘demand’ illegal working conditions.