Laurie joined the Law Faculty in 2009. Her research advances the rights of temporary migrant workers in Australia and the region. She is the author of the first book on the regulation of temporary labour migration in Australia and has held a number of significant national and international research grants, including one for the Fair Work Ombudsman examining the experience of international students in the Australian workplace and another for Open Society Foundations International Migration Initiative examining the use of digital technology platforms to protect and empower migrant workers. Her recent research projects include a ground-breaking empirical study of non-residents working in homes across Australia as au pairs. Laurie is currently working with Bassina Farbenblum on the first extensive research into temporay migrant wokers' access to remedies for employment-related harms in Australia.
Before coming to UTS, Laurie worked at Human Rights First, in New York, in the International Humanitarian Law Program of the Australian Red Cross and as Co-Convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW).
Can supervise: YES
Immigration and labour law
Migrant Rights at Work: Law's precariousness at the intersection of migration and labour, published by Routledge, 2016.
- Access to justice for temporary migrant workers
Immigration and domestic work
Research project on the way that immigration status shapes the work of au pairs and other domestic workers
- Sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of asylum determinations
- Citizenship and Immigration Law
- Administratve Law
- Research Methodology
- Honours Research Program
Public debates about the terms of membership and inclusion have intensified as developed economies increasingly rely on temporary migrant labour. While most agree that temporary migrant workers are entitled to the general protection of employment laws, temporary migrants have, by definition, restricted rights to residence, full social protections and often to occupational and geographic mobility. This book raises important ethical questions about the differential treatment of temporary and unauthorised migrant workers, and permanent residents, and where the line should be drawn between exploitation and legitimate employment. Taking the regulatory reforms of Australia as a key case study, Laurie Berg explores how the influence of immigration law extends beyond its functions in regulating admission to and exclusion from a country. Berg examines the ways in which immigration law and enforcement reconfigure the relationships between migrant workers and employers, producing uncertain and coercive working conditions. In presenting an analytical approach to issues of temporary labour migration, the book develops a unique theoretical framework, contending that the concept of precariousness is a more fruitful way than equality or vulnerability to evaluate and address issues of temporary migrant labour. The book will be of great interest to scholars and practitioners of immigration law and employment law and policy.
This book provides a comprehensive analysis of immigration law in Australia and of the political, social and cultural forces that have shaped and are shaping it. It explains the momentous changes that have occurred in law and policy since the first attempts, in December 1989, to `codify decision-making through detailed regulations. It is a study of revolution and counter-revolution: of the impact that the courts and tribunals have had on law and policy through the review of migration decisions; and of the increasingly extreme steps taken by government to assert control over every aspect of its immigration program.
Berg, LA & Farbenblum, B 2018, 'Remedies for Migrant Worker Exploitation in Australia: Lessons from the 7-Eleven Wage Repayment Program', Melbourne University Law Review, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 1035-1084.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Temporary migrants comprise approximately 11% of the Australian workforce and are systemically underpaid across a range of industries. The most vulnerable of these workers (including international students and backpackers) rarely successfully recover unpaid wages and entitlements. In 2015, media revealed systematic exploitation of 7-Eleven's international student workforce, reflecting practices that have since been identified in other major Australian franchises. In an unprecedented response, 7-Eleven head office established a wage repayment program, which operated until February 2017. As of mid-2017, the program had determined claims worth over $150 million — by far the highest rectification of unpaid wages in Australian history. Drawing on interviews with international students and a range of stakeholders across Australia, this article uses 7-Eleven as a case study to illuminate systemic barriers that prevent temporary migrants from accessing remedies for unpaid entitlements within existing legal and institutional frameworks. We identify the unique attributes of the 7-Eleven wage repayment program that have contributed to its unusual accessibility and efficacy, and which may point to conditions needed to improve temporary migrants' access to justice through state-based institutions and business-led redress processes.
Increasing attention is being given to the exploitation of temporary migrant workers in Australia, in particular in relation to wage underpayments. But very little focus has been given to the ability of temporary migrant workers to access legal remedies under Australian employment law. This article examines whether temporary migrant workers are able to make and pursue a claim for unfair dismissal within the federal jurisdiction. As unfair dismissal law seeks to protect job security and provides an essential check on managerial prerogative, it is important that temporary migrant workers are able to access this legal avenue to protect them from arbitrary dismissal. We argue there are serious deficiencies in the application, coverage and content of federal unfair dismissal law in relation to temporary migrant workers in Australia.
Berg, LA & Farbenblum, B 2017, 'Migrant workers' access to remedy for exploitation in Australia: the role of the national Fair Work Ombudsman', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 319-331.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Exploitation of temporary migrant workers in Australia has
emerged as a significant human rights concern. However, limited
attention has been paid to the State's responsibility to ensure
individual workers can access remedies for rights violations. This
article considers whether Australia's government agencies and
institutional frameworks are suitable to enabling remedies for
temporary migrant workers, and how well they deliver remedies
to individuals in practice. Drawing on new empirical data, it
focuses on the role of the national labour inspectorate, the Fair
Work Ombudsman (FWO). FWO has undertaken various education,
compliance and deterrence initiatives directed to systemically
improving conditions for migrant workers. This article considers
the extent to which individual migrant workers seek assistance
from FWO to recover their personal unpaid wages, and the remedial
outcomes of individual claims lodged with the agency. We
illuminate structural factors contributing to migrants' reluctance to
engage with FWO, as well as factors contributing to low wage
recovery rates for those who do contact FWO. We conclude that
although these challenges are numerous and multi-layered, they
are not all inevitable. Reforms should incorporate a new migrantcentred
approach that recalibrates the risks and costs of seeking
remedies against the likelihood of obtaining a just outcome.
Berg, LA 2013, 'Book Review: Susan Kneebone and Julie Debeljak, Transnational Crime and Human Rights', Australian International Law Journal, vol. 20, pp. 203-206.
Berg, LA 2011, ''Mate Speak English, You're in Australia Now': English language requirements in skilled migration', The Alternative Law Journal, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 110-115.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Berg, LA 2010, 'Reforms to Skilled Migration', The Alternative Law Journal, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 179-180.
Berg, LA & Loughnan, A 2009, 'Preface - W(h)ither Human Rights?', Public Space: The Journal of Law and Social Justice, vol. 4, pp. 1-2.
Berg, LA & Millbank, J 2009, 'Constructing the Personal Narratives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Asylum Claimants', Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 195-223.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This article draws upon psychological and sociological literature to explore the issues that arise in eliciting and presenting a refugee narrative when the claim is based upon sexual orientation. In particular we explore the psychological âstage modelâ of sexual identity development and examine the pervasive impact this model has had upon decision-makersâ âpre-understandingâ of sexual identity development as a uniform and linear trajectory.
Berg, LA 2007, 'At the Border and Between the Cracks: The Precarious Position of Irregular Migrant Workers under International Law', Melbourne Journal of International Law, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-34.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This article aims to identify jurisprudence which advances the standards of treatment of unauthorised migrants in the context of often hostile domestic laws and political rhetoric. Due to its universalist and humanist underpinnings, many would consider international human rights law to be a natural source of rights protecting migrant workers. However, human rights doctrine takes a chequered approach to the protection of those living or working in a foreign state without visa authorisation. Even the Migrant Workers Convention recognises states sovereign prerogative over immigration control, and thereby fails to cater to the especially precarious position of irregular migrants who decline to assert their rights for fear of facing sanctions under immigration laws. It is argued that we need to look to regional judicial forums to find international legal doctrine which articulates a progressive legal framework robustly protective of irregular migrants rights. This article canvasses jurisprudence in the regional Human Rights Courts in Europe and the Americas which succeeds, in different ways, at decoupling the absolute discretion of states to regulate border control from the substantive rights of irregular migrants nce present in a host state.
Berg, LA 2004, 'Abu Graib - International Legal Standards Pertaining to torture and Degrading and Inhumane Treatment', Human Rights Defender, vol. 13, pp. 24-24.
Berg, LA 2015, 'Hiding in Plain Sight: Au Pairs in Australia' in Cox, R (ed), Sisters or Servants? Au Pairs' Lives in Global Context, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 187-202.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Berg, LA & Millbank, J 2013, 'Developing a Jurisprudence of Transgender Particular Social Group' in Thomas Spijkerboer (ed), Fleeing Homophobia: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Asylum, Routledge, Oxford, pp. 121-153.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Berg, LA & Millbank, J 2011, 'Constructing the Personal Narratives of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Asylum Claimants' in Robson, R (ed), Sexuality and Law - Volume III: Sexual Freedom, Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, pp. 321-349.
Berg, LA, Samson, A, Robinson, PK & Wills, J 2009, 'Economic Migrants, the Banana Supply Chain, and the London Living Wage: Three Cases of Global Civil Society Activism on Poverty' in Fiona Holland (ed), Global Civil Society, Sage Publications, London, UK, pp. 166-185.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This report presents the first comprehensive study of living and working conditions of au pairs in Australia. It draws on responses from 1,479 au pairs across 34 nationalities to an online survey in 2017. The study seeks to provide an evidence base to indicate the contours and variety of au pair experiences across this country. The concept of au pairing has arisen informally in Australia as a version of a European tradition where young women spent a year-long cultural exchange with a host family in a different European country, learning a foreign language and earning 'pocket money' while undertaking light childcare duties. Media reports have revealed both the growing dependence of families on au pairs as a source of flexible and affordable childcare, and the risk of au pairs' exposure to exploitative working conditions. However, because au pairing is an informal arrangement, very little is known about the day-to-day experiences of au pairs in this country, or how prevalent this practice is.
Almost no empirical research has investigated the living and working conditions of au pairs in Australia, how they arrange their placement or which visas they hold during their stay. Still less is known about how experiences vary between different cohorts, such as nationality groups, host families' locations, and au pairs who use agencies to arrange their placements as compared with other means. This study begins to fill these gaps. It reveals participants' demographic profile (including nationality and visa used while au pairing in Australia), the characteristics of their first au pair placement (including tasks they performed in the home, rates of pay and hours), problems they encountered in Australia and how they sought assistance to resolve these, and their motivations for au pairing, benefits gained and overall appraisal of their experience, including whether they considered the experience to be closer to a cultural exchange or to work.
Wage Theft in Silence reveals that although the majority of migrant workers are paid well below minimum wage, very few ever take action to recover the wages they are owed. Most of those who tried to get their wages back were not successful. The report draws on responses of 4,322 international students, backpackers and other migrant workers who participated in the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey. It analyses the reasons why the overwhelming majority of participants had not sought to address their underpayment and makes recommendations for reform.
Farbenblum, B, Berg, L & Kintominas, A Open Society Foundations 2018, Transformative Technology for Migrant Workers: Opportunities, Challenges and Risks, pp. i-48, New York.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Digital technology offers the promise to transform the labour migration landscape and to empower workers in new and previously uncontemplated ways. However it also gives rise to a host of practical, ethical and legal challenges. This report takes stock of the rapidly evolving landscape of digital tools that businesses, worker advocates and governments have developed to address exploitative recruitment and labour conditions. It considers the factors that contribute to (or undermine) the effectiveness of these tools, and the risks they create for workers and host organisations. These include legal, financial and security risks. The report considers resourcing and other challenges to sustainability and scalability of digital tools, and approaches to design and implementation that ensure the tools are taken up by vulnerable workers and deliver meaningful outcomes to them. It concludes that technology's transformative potential will only be realized through responsible and well-considered approaches to the funding, development, and implementation of platforms that respond to migrant workers' vulnerabilities and the structural drivers of exploitation.
Overview of the study
The National Temporary Migrant Work Survey is the most comprehensive study of wage theft and working
conditions among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in Australia. The survey draws
on responses from 4,322 temporary migrants across 107 nationalities of every region in the world, working in a
range of jobs in all states and territories. Its unprecedented scope indicates the breadth, depth and complexity of
non-compliance with Australian labour law.
Temporary migrants comprise up to 11% of the Australian labour market. Despite the prominence of migrant
worker exploitation in the media, there has been limited empirical data on the overall nature and extent of wage
theft among international students and backpackers in Australia. Still less is known about how experiences vary
between students and backpackers, across nationality groups, or in different industries. This study begins to fill
these gaps. It enables development of evidence-based policies and services that are more responsive to temporary
migrants' diverse experiences and needs, as identified by them.
The survey addressed the characteristics of temporary migrants' lowest paid job, rates and method of pay, working
conditions, how they found low paid work, their knowledge of Australian minimum wages and perceptions of their
labour market. It was conducted online between September and December 2016, in twelve languages in addition
to English. The survey was anonymous and open to any individual who had worked in Australia on a temporary visa.
Most participants (55%) were international students, followed by around a third (33%) who were backpackers (Working
Holiday Makers) while working in their lowest paid job in Australia. Three quarters (77%) of international students were
enrolled at a university and 23% were studying at vocational and English-language colleges. Almost half of participants
(47%) were from countries in Asia, including 15% who were Chinese ...
Berg, LA, Banki, S, Stubbs, M, Duffill, P, Rice, S, Hartley, L, McGaughey, F, Kerdo, P & Orchard, P Office for Teaching and Learning, Cth 2016, Social Justice Exercise Manual.View/Download from: UTS OPUS