Australian Unions have genuine concerns that foreign workers on temporary visas are being exploited and that unscrupulous employers are rorting the scheme at the expense of Australian jobs.

While unions welcome the Federal Government’s recognition that widespread rorting of the 457 visa program exists with the introduction of new penalties for dodgy employers, much more needs to be done.

Key issues:

  • Introducing a new integrity check on 457 visas is pointless without the resources to properly monitor it
  • 457 visas are only one type of temporary work visas being abused – others include working holiday and student visas
  • Requirements for employers to try to hire local workers before recruiting overseas (labour market testing) are weak and getting weaker through free trade agreement exemptions
  • These labour market testing requirements only cover nursing, engineering and some trades
  • Lowering English language standards is a serious health and safety risk. Since the 457 visa program came into place, there have been 12 reported deaths of 457 visa workers – all but one of these deaths occurred when lower English language standards were in place prior to 2009
  • The training fund the government is considering will significantly reduce the amount of money employers are required to invest in training within their organisation to offset the use 457 visas (from 1% – 2% of payroll to just $400 – $800 per 457 visa worker)

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

“Tinkering at the edges of the 457 visa program will do nothing to stamp out the widespread fraud and rorting of the system.

“The ACTU, health, resource and service sector unions are calling for a Senate Inquiry into the whole temporary visa system to ensure foreign workers are not being exploited and that employers are genuinely trying to hire Australian workers first.

“With unemployment at 6.4 per cent and youth unemployment at 14.2 per cent, the government should be strengthening the rules for employers to hire local workers and investing in skills and training.

“Across the country we are seeing employers cutting apprentice numbers and graduate nurse positions as well as their investment in training, then complaining they are unable to find skilled workers as a justification for bringing in workers on 457 visas.

“Australia’s migration program should not be at the beck and call of big business.”