The Federal Governments proposal for a new type of visa that would allow employers to bring in temporary workers from overseas to fill local apprenticeships will mean fewer apprenticeship opportunities and careers in the trades for young Australians says the ACTU.

Commenting on a decision by Parliament yesterday to delay a vote on introducing the new visa until it resumes in March, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

This is the first time the Government has proposed a visa that would allow unskilled and untrained people from overseas into Australia to undertake a trades apprenticeship and is further evidence that the Governments temporary overseas worker program is out of control.

The visa is titled the Trade Skills Training Visa and is a full-fee paying visa that requires overseas applicants to pay an upfront fee of more than $3000 to the Government and also pay the full cost of all apprenticeship tuition fees, as well as living expenses, travel, health insurance and school costs for themselves and any family.

Yesterday we learnt that bread chain Brumbys is to bring 20 Vietnamese bakers to Australia and now we find the Federal Government wants to deregulate apprenticeships so that employers can go overseas to fill places.

Nowhere on the proposed visa application form is there a requirement that the employer advertise the job locally.

It is clear that the Government and employers are not trying hard enough to make sure that local people fill apprenticeship and job vacancies first.

Almost daily there are new examples coming to light of employers being issued visas by the Government to bring in temporary workers from overseas many of whom are exploited with low pay and poor employment conditions. The Government should answer the following questions:

  • How many temporary worker or business visas are being issued by the Government?
  • What steps have employers taken to demonstrate that local workers are not available?
  • What wages and employment conditions are used to assess whether overseas workers are not being exploited and are not undermining the pay and entitlements of local workers?
  • What checks are the Government making about the qualifications of the sponsored workers?
  • What access do temporary workers have to independent help from unions and other agencies to ensure they are being properly paid, have the appropriate qualifications and are aware of the relevant health and safety requirements?
  • Who is overseeing the program and ensuring abuses do not occur?
  • These overseas worker abuses highlight the ugly side of the Howard Governments deregulated job market. The Prime Minister needs to intervene immediately to first make sure that employers look to fill these jobs with Australians. He then needs to make sure all temporary workers have decent wages and conditions that are equivalent to Australian workers generally.

    The Government should withdraw its proposal for this new overseas apprenticeship visa before it is re-introduced into Parliament in March, said Ms Burrow.