Unions call on the 457 review panel to make recommendations that will ensure Australians get increased opportunities to apply for local jobs before employers seek to fill positions with a temporary overseas workforce.

“Not only must current regulations around the 457 visa program be upheld, we need to strengthen those laws,” ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said.

Unions are currently meeting with the 457 review panel to make the case for workers amid fears the Abbott Government will deregulate the troubled system.

“At a time when unemployment is at the highest levels in 10 years and youth unemployment is catastrophically high, and there have been a series of major job losses across the country we must do all we can to provide opportunities to local workers,” Mr Oliver said.

“It’s unacceptable that local workers with the necessary skills may not even be given the opportunity to apply for a position.

“Young people and graduates who previously would have been offered an apprenticeship or other entry-level opportunity are being shut out of a number of industries.”

Mr Oliver added, “Where there is a genuine skills shortage we support immigration, especially permanent migration.”

“We do not support exploitation of foreign workers of which there are many examples.”

“The current 457 visa system has been plagued by issues such as abuse of temporary workers who find themselves in a bonded-labour type relationship with their employers. There are also shameful allegations of migration agents ripping off desperate workers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars per application.”

“All this while Australian workers are being shut out of the job market.”

Mr Oliver said there was deep concern amongst unions that the review was focused on finding ways the 457 visa program could be deregulated to remove current protections and safeguards, especially labour market testing.

“The Government’s preoccupation with deregulation is very concerning. Vital protections such as labour market testing, English language requirements for temporary 457 workers, the obligation to pay overseas 457 workers ‘market rates’, and the minimum salary threshold for 457 workers appear to be up for negotiation.”

“We call for the Government to commit to retaining these and other essential elements of the 457 visa program that operate in the interests of both Australian workers and temporary overseas workers.”

“The ACTU will be meeting with the 457 review panel on the 9th of May to outline why Australia needs more, not less regulation of the 457 visa system.”