Employers have recruited 37,620 foreign managers, professionals and tradespeople this year, despite a growing pool of 191,000 unemployed Australians qualified for the same jobs.
The Australian, by Natasha Bita, 29 May 2014
Official data reveals that while 67,000 Australian technicians and tradies search for work, employers have brought in 10,210 foreign trade workers on 457 work visas during the first nine months of this financial year. Employers also looked offshore for 19,260 professional staff, despite a pool of 83,700 Australians unemployed.
And 8150 managers were sponsored on 457 visas, despite 40,200 Australian managers on the dole queue.
Unions demanded tighter controls on migrant labour yesterday, as employers insisted foreigners were only doing jobs that Australians “would not or could not” do.
Professionals Australia has asked the Abbott government to remove engineering from its approved list of skilled occupations for migrant labour, in light of 7000 job losses in the past year. Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver said Australian nursing graduates, carpenters, cooks, engineers, fitters and motor mechanics were having trouble finding work, at the same time employers were using migrant labour.
“We need foreign workers, particularly under permanent migration,’’ he said yesterday. “But Australians want work in the same areas where 457 visa use is at its greatest.
“We can’t be importing workers and creating a market glut that forces up unemployment, shuts out local workers and halts opportunities for young people trying to get into the workforce.
“If we move to a system where it is easier to bring labour from overseas than to train our own apprentices, that will lead to a major imbalance in the labour market.’’
Mr Oliver said unions had found cases of “significant abuse’’ of migrant labour, with some employers using them as cheaper “bonded labour’’.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has prosecuted 11 employers this year for underpaying migrants — including a restaurant in Dubbo, NSW, that allegedly underpaid a Chinese cook $189,255 over three years, and a Brisbane IT firm fined for underpaying a young Chinese worker $10,000.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell said employers’ continued reliance on 457 visas proved that work was available for Australians willing to move to regional areas.
“These jobs are either in places Australians don’t want to go, or are the jobs Australians don’t want to do,’’ Ms Carnell said.
“There are jobs to be done, and it would be great if they could be filled with Australian workers.’’
Professionals Australia chief executive Chris Walton said 7000 engineers had lost their jobs in the past year, and the closure of Toyota and Holden would land hundreds more out of work.
“We’re producing fewer engineering graduates than we’re importing, and that’s a travesty,’’ Mr Walton said.
Jeff Bradtke, managing director of contract labour hire business Workforce Solutions, said demand for migrant labour was starting to increase after the global financial crisis.
“There’s not just a skil ls shortage, there is a shortage in Australia of willingness to work,’’ he said.