13 February 2018 – The ACTU has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene on labour abuses by diplomats after horrifying revelations about the treatment of domestic staff on last night’s 4 Corners program.
The harrowing first-hand accounts of domestic staff working in embassies and the residences of diplomats detailed treatment that amounted to slavery.
They included working seven days a week, up to 18 hours a day, with no or very little pay.
The workers lived in cramped, confined conditions, were not allowed to leave their place of work, and in some cases had their passports confiscated.
Actions available to the Government include instructing DFAT to not approve further employment requests for diplomats alleged to have perpetrated labour abuses.
The Government may also invoke Article 32 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, requesting that the sending state revoke diplomatic immunity – a step the Turnbull government has not yet taken despite more than 30 cases of labour abuse uncovered by the Salvation Army since 2007.
Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus:
“People who subject others to what amounts to slavery should not be beyond the reach of the law. There should be no exceptions.
“To have our own government departments approving the hiring of people who are later subjected to such appalling treatment is sickening.
“We should be ensuring that diplomats who’ve already abused workers are accountable for their actions and cannot employ further domestic workers.
”The Government should work with other countries to charge and convict those who have committed criminal abuses.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)