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Free Trade Agreements mean fewer Australian jobs say unions

Easing of entry requirements for overseas workers will mean fewer jobs for Australians, unions claim.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is warning that free trade deals with China and, in future, India will mean that both local and international employers operating in Australia will have easier access to cheap labour.

In particular, the relaxing of current “market testing” requirements will mean that it will be easier for employers to bring workers into the country on temporary work (457) visas.

Market testing rules may require employers to show that they have not been able to find local workers for a job before they can apply to bring in labour from overseas. Already, only about a third of successful 457 applications required market testing. The ACTU estimates that under agreements such as the recently signed China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that proportion could sink to 25%.

Under new Investment Facilitation Agreements in the China FTA, companies with projects worth more than $150 million will also be able to negotiate to bring in lower-skilled workers at wage rates that fall below the current wage floor for the standard 457 visa program of $53,990 per annum.

Telecommunications projects are specifically mentioned in the China FTA as falling into this category.

ACTU President, Ged Kearney says that Australia’s temporary visa system is reaching crisis point and instead of fixing the abuse and exploitation, the Abbott Government is making it easier for companies to bring in temporary workers at the expense of local jobs.

“Our temporary visa system needs more regulation to protect job and training opportunities for Australian workers, not less,” she said.

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