Proposals to revamp visa rules for foreign workers will be attacked by the union movement as a "thinly veiled attempt" to give employers a way of sidestepping sponsorship obligations.
SMH, by Nick Toscano, 3 February 2015
Australian unions, in a new submission, will urge the Immigration Department to weigh the impact that easing visa restrictions would have on the worsening youth unemployment crisis gripping the nation.
The department has been considering relaxing entry requirements for overseas workers, including the introduction of a new short-term visa class for specialised workers to stay in Australia for up to a year.
Under this change, overseas workers would not need to apply for a 457 work visa, which imposes entry requirements including English language tests and forces employers to prove they have looked for local workers before seeking overseas labour.
"This proposal may align with the wish list of certain employers, but it is not in the interest of Australian or overseas workers," the submission states.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said there were 1.1 million temporary visa-holders in Australia as of last September - an increase of more than 28,000, or 2.6 per cent, in a year.
He said the department had failed to explain "how deregulating work visas will benefit the large number of Australian workers without jobs", including those unable to secure apprenticeships and university graduates facing a depressed job market.
Assistant Immigration and Border Protection Minister Michaelia Cash said the skilled migration program was aimed at plugging skill shortages, and she strongly disputed union claims that Australian jobs were under threat from overseas labour. She said any changes would complement rather than replace the existing workforce.
"An effectively managed temporary labour-migration program will not threaten Australian jobs," a spokesman for Senator Cash said. "Rather, it will secure the future of business and grow employment opportunities to enable businesses to employ more Australians.
"It is essential in restoring growth in the economy. It is essential in lifting our productivity."
The spokesman said the ACTU "should explain how they reconcile their ongoing objections to foreign workers with the fact that some of their own trade unions continue to employ subclass 457 visa holders in their offices".