Billabong International's chief executive, the American retail specialist Neil Fiske, is working in Australia on a 457 visa.
SMH, by Heath Aston, 19 October 2014
Mr Fiske is the most high-profile – and, at $1 million a year, best paid – worker on the controversial 457 visa covered in a leaked monitoring report by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The unredacted version of the report, obtained by Fairfax Media, reveals the names of 1800 visa holders and the companies that employ them – or in many cases, the companies that used to employ them.
The audit, which involves less than 1 per cent of the 200,000 foreign workers in Australia, raises concerns over 40 per cent of 457 visa holders, including evidence that many are no longer working for their nominated employer or are not being paid at the rate at which they were promised.
The report also raises questions about the widespread use of the visa, which the government insists is available only to employers who "cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work" they require.
The Fair Work log suggests that certain cafes and restaurants in populated urban areas are almost entirely staffed by foreign workers.
For example, a restaurant called Goa Indian Fusion on Queensland's Gold Coast has five staff on 457 visas. The Gold Coast has a youth unemployment rate of 16.5 per cent.
Likewise, Cafe 21 in Darwin has six imported staff doing everything from cooking to customer service, and has one working as the accountant.
Waves Car Wash in Canberra has four staff on 457 visas while a Thai massage business in the ACT suburb of Belconnen has imported six Philippine women as staff.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence this year described youth unemployment in the ACT as at "crisis levels", at 11.2 per cent.
The Abbott government announced this week it was making it less burdensome for businesses to apply for 457 visa workers and it would relax rules around English language competency to broaden the pool of potential workers from overseas.
Unions are fighting the expansion, saying it is not the right time to loosen visa requirements because unemployment is at 12-year highs and youth unemployment is at 13 per cent across the country.
David O'Byrne, the national secretary of United Voice, the union that represents 120,000 hospitality workers, said the restaurant and cafe industry – with the support of the Abbott government – was pushing its campaign to cut penalty rates with the spectre of more foreign workers if Australian workers do not comply.
"A system that can be abused this badly is a system that is not working," he said.
"The migration system is supposed to support a growing economy – not shrink wages."
Almost 350 people – nearly 20 per cent – were found to be "no longer employed by sponsor". There are also concerns over underpayment.
The statutory minimum of is $53,900. One worker recruited as a customer service manager was found to be working as a cleaner and paid just $28,000.
Six workers employed by Great Solar, a company with operations in NSW, Victoria and South Australia that went into administration in November 2013, were all being paid $10,000 less than they should have been.
A spokesman for the Fair Work Ombudsman said: "Where the Fair Work Ombudsman has concerns that employers may not be meeting these sponsorship obligations, we refer the matters to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for all further action."
Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said: "There could be a number of reasons why a visa holder may not be with their original sponsor, and this does not indicate inappropriate behaviour or a breach of an applicant's obligations.
"If a visa holder has stopped working for their original sponsor, they have 90 days to find a new sponsor or otherwise leave Australia."
Opposition employment and workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor said the audit showed why Labor had toughened rules around 457 visas.
"The results show why the Abbott government should not have opposed the measures and why it should not remove these important safeguards for workers," he said.
There were 105 cases, of the 1800 cases that were audited, in which the nominated salary was $100,000 or higher.
Billabong nominated a salary of $982,000 for Mr Fiske but the report showed his actual salary was $1 million.
A Billabong spokesman said the surfwear group was a global company and Mr Fiske had the strongest set of skills to drive the troubled company's financial turnaround.
The log shows Canberra-based Swimming Australia imported coach Jacobus Cornelia on a salary of $411,000.
A recent report, titled Robust New Foundations, by the government proposes a "fast-track" approvals process for larger companies with good records, relaxed English-language requirements and consideration of a 10 per cent reduction in the $53,900 minimum income.