The ALP’s announcement of a range of reforms to the temporary work visa system will head off increasing misuse by employers and deliver increased protections for all workers, and help secure local jobs.

While the ability for business to access temporary workers is important, it can’t be at the cost of worker exploitation. Sensible changes to labour market testing, skills assessments and increased safeguards are welcome reforms to the work visa system.

The temporary work visa program is virtually uncapped and has been growing in size for a number of years, without any regard for the level of unemployment in Australia.

All the evidence is that both Australian and overseas workers are being disadvantaged and exploited on a regular basis under the current temporary work visa program. Unions see this on a day-to-day basis.

The problems of exploitation of temporary overseas workers are systematic and well-entrenched in many sectors of the economy.

The most recent Department of Immigration and Border Protection 457 report states that the top three nominated occupations for granted visas were: “cook”, “developer programmer” and “café or restaurant manager.” A lot of Australians would question the need for employers to import workers for these type of positions at a time when unemployment remains above pre-GFC levels and youth unemployment is in double digits.

The Australian community needs to have confidence that such a large and growing temporary work visa program is not having adverse impacts on employment and training opportunities for Australians, particularly young people.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

“It’s become increasingly clear that the temporary work visa system is in urgent need of reform.”

“Some employers have been abusing the system as a backdoor for cheap, disposable labour and this has to stop.”

“Too often workers end up exploited or underpaid – we want to see all workers treated fairly, no matter what sort of visa or legal status they hold.”

“The Liberals like to talk tough about border protection to score political points, but have done nothing to fix a temporary migration system that is out of control and costs young Australians job opportunities every day.”