Bomen Job Threat Sparks Visa Debate

Cutting three jobs at Bomen's multi-million dollar oilseed crushing plant has reignited the 457 visa worker debate.

The Daily Advertiser, by Andrew Pearson, 6 May 2014

Three utilities technicians were verbally informed last week that they are being made redundant at Riverina Oils and Bio Energy (ROBE).

One of the affected staff, who contacted The Daily Advertiser, claims they are being replaced by migrant workers.

The employee, who has more than 30 years experience as a qualified maintenance fitter, questioned how 457 visa workers were "getting away with taking Australian workers' jobs".

ROBE chief financial officer Scott Whiteman confirmed three places within the organisation's utilities team had been made redundant "due to a technology change in that area".

Mr Whiteman refuted claims they were being replaced by workers on 457 visas, saying a reduction in capacity meant one of the boilers no longer required 24-hour monitoring.

"The team that was specifically employed to do that aren't required," Mr Whiteman said.

Eighteen of the 63 people employed at the facility are 457 visa workers who carry out the role of "specialist oil seed equipment processing engineers".

The positions had been advertised nationally and only two employees were found locally, Mr Whiteman said.

"Due to a lack of such skills in Australia, we've had to employ 457 visa workers to carry out that function," he said.

"The boiler attendants don't have the skills to operate specialist oil seed equipment."

Mr Whiteman said the organisation had looked at other job options within the plant for the affected workers.

Redundancy paperwork is expected to be delivered this week, following Friday's verbal communication.

Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, said a number of Riverina companies employed 457 visa workers and stressed that, due to the onerous nature of hiring them, it was often a last resort.

"I know ROBE, like any other Australian company, prefers to have Australian workers," Mr McCormack said.

"In a perfect world we'd fill every position with an Australian worker."

Mr McCormack said ROBE had to supplement them with those on 457 visas in order to maintain production.

"They have to be able to do something to keep the doors open," he said.

"457 visas have really made a difference to many regional companies."

Mr McCormack said there were safety provisions for Australian workers and would look into the matter on behalf of the affected staff, if contacted. 

Click here to read the original article at the Daily Advertiser.

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