ACTU Says Australians Will Lose Out Under Proposed Short-term Working Visa

Australian workers will lose out from a proposed short-term working visa which will serve to benefit big employers, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said.

The Guardian, by Shalailah Medhora, 3 February 2015

The ACTU issued a scathing response to a discussion paper on skilled migration released by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

The group heavily criticised a proposal in the paper to introduce a new short-term mobility visa that would allow employers to hire specialised workers for up to 12 months.

“The paper fails to make the case for why this and other new visas are needed at this time,” the ACTU response to the paper said.

“It appears to have been driven more by the government’s deregulatory agenda and the wishes of particular employers in particular sectors wanting to attract overseas workers, rather than a wider view of what is in the public interest,” the ACTU said.

The union said the visa would “seek to remove key current safeguards such as labour market testing (LMT), as well as English language and skill requirements from certain visa types”.

“In coming up with these proposals, the interests of Australian workers appear to have been a secondary consideration, despite the review having as one of its principles the need to ensure the primacy of Australian workers,” the ACTU said.

The union is concerned that short-term visas would erode working conditions and allow employers to bypass LMT.

DIBP data shows that fewer employers seek 457 skilled visas when LMT is in place.

“There has been a much larger decline in 457 visa nominations by employers in occupations covered by LMT, compared to average monthly numbers in occupations exempted from LMT,” the ACTU said.

“Based on these findings, if LMT had been applied to the other 73% of occupations not currently covered by LMT, then there would have been an estimated 6,500 additional jobs available to local workers over that period.”

The ACTU supports the proposal in the paper that employers set aside money from every successful 457 sponsorship and put it in a fund to boost the skills and training of Australian workers.

It is calling on the government to create public register of all 457 visa-sponsoring employers, similar to what the United Kingdom has in place.

The ACTU argues Australian workers should get priority while unemployment is high, and that focusing on foreign workers means that local employers do not put enough emphasis on training Australian workers.

Submissions on the DIBP paper closed at the end of January. The government will now consider the submissions.

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