Jessie Cayanan is a welder from the Philippines, on a subclass 457 temporary visa. On Saturday 22 June he was one of several workers to address a meeting of Melbourne’s Filipino community, convened by the Filipino migrant organisation Migrante.

Jessie explained that after two months on the job, his boss demanded a pay cut. “They decided to cut my salary from $977 to $450… My payslip [looks] complete at $977. But the $520 I had to take from the ATM, I had to give it to my boss in cash. Or else if I don’t agree, I will be deported. So I had no choice but to accept the deal.”

At the same time, Jessie was required to repay a recruitment agent who had placed him in the job. “I had signed an agreement with Skilled Migration Services whereby they agreed to find me a job, and I had to pay them $6712. I am required to pay $129 per week to Skilled Migration Services.”

So after paying his boss and the recruitment agent, Jessie was left with only a little over $300 for a 46-hour week. Worse was to come. “On 7 May I suffered an accident. While bleeding I went to my boss’s office. He just kept on screaming at me, shouting, then sent me back to work even when I am bleeding ... My boss didn’t even ask me if I wanted to go to hospital … Now, I am afraid of being deported.”

Jessie is now speaking up for the rights of himself and other 457 visa holders. Other current and former 457 visa holders also addressed the meeting. Some had been required to pay the equivalent of $10,000 up front, sending their families deeply into debt, just to get a job and a 457 visa. They had then been given jobs that didn’t match their skills and then sacked after a couple of months.

Speaking to Red Flag, Jessie summed up the feeling of the meeting when he declared: “I hope all 457 visas here in Australia already will be given a permanent visa, to give them job security, for them to be able to stay here, for their family, for them not to be vulnerable, not to be abused ... Hopefully there is a good outcome for this. I just want justice.”