The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has backed Labor leader Bill Shorten’s move to review the temporary skilled migration (457) visa programme.
On 28 November Shorten introduced a private member’s bill into the federal parliament aimed at addressing long-standing problems with the 457 visa system. The Migration Amendment (Putting Local Workers First) Bill 2016 calls for stronger labour market testing, stricter licensing criteria for 457 workers and more restrictions for employers.
Unions say the 457 visa system is broken with the occupation list for temporary workers continuing to be rorted and simply used as a source of cheap labour.
The list is supposed to reflect national skill gaps and currently includes 651 occupations but the ACTU says it believes it bears little resemblance to areas of genuine skills shortage. Instead, it is being used as a way of providing cheap labour.
“Workers are coming in and doing entry level jobs like retail shop assistants and kitchenhands,” says ACTU President Ged Kearney. “That undermines local wages and employment while at the same time opening the door to exploitation of the temporary workers.”
Meanwhile the current list includes nurses, engineers, electricians, motor mechanics and joiners. Unions say that if gaps exist in these areas, the answer is to spend more on training here in Australia.
“Australia has double digit youth unemployment and more than one million underemployed people who need more work,” Kearney said.
“Employers who employ skilled migrants must be obliged to train and hire locally before employing temporary visa holders.”