Unions are campaigning against a proposal to abolish the requirement for employers to advertise jobs before filling them with overseas workers on 457 visas.
SMH, by Anna Patty, 1 October 2014
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has analysed government data showing the number of 457 visa nominations had almost doubled from 9.8 per cent to 19.1 per cent in the first six months of the introduction of labour market testing.
The rejection rate of 457 visas for occupations that were not subject to labour market testing fell only slightly, from 7.9 per cent to 7.3 per cent, over the same six months.
The former Labor Government introduced the requirement that employers advertised jobs in professions including engineering, nursing and technical trades before filling them with foreign workers.
CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor said the initiative reduced the number of 457 visa approvals when employers failed to demonstrate that no qualified Australian workers were available for the job.
Mr O'Connor said the labour market testing requirement covered about a third of occupations and had proved to be effective.
The federal government's independent panel that reviewed the integrity of the 457 visa system recommended labour market testing be abolished. Mr O'Connor said the government should reject the recommendation and said the testing should be strengthened and extended instead.
"Asking an employer to advertise a job vacancy before they make the claim they can't find somebody is not too much to ask," he said.
"Why are people using 457 workers for low-level clerical work and nursing when you have graduate nurses unemployed?"
Mr O'Connor said, despite a rise in unemployment, particularly for younger people, 108,870 people were employed on 457 visas as at June 30.
A spokesman for Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash rejected the CFMEU's claims, saying labour market testing was not a common reason for refusing nominations.
"Since the introduction of labour market testing, less than 6 per cent of subclass 457 nominations have been refused in the occupations subject to labour market testing. This compares [with] 4 per cent for occupations not subject to labour market testing."
The CFMEU said these percentages were based on the number of final rejections, but did not take into account the number of applications withdrawn by employers on advice from the department.
Mr O'Connor said the Fair Work Ombudsman had found rules for the employment of people on 457 visas had been breached in 40 per cent of cases. Most related to the underpayment of workers.
"There are some shocking examples of workers being exploited and you have got youth unemployment in some parts of the country of more than 25 per cent," he said.
The National Union of Workers is also campaigning against the underpayment of workers employed by chicken processing company Baiada.
Pedro Vannea started working as a boner at Baiada's chicken processing plant in South Australia in 2007 soon after migrating from Cambodia.
His job was terminated late last year after he slipped on chicken skin and injured his ankle.
The NUW successfully lodged an unfair dismissal claim against Baiada that was being appealed.
NUW industrial officer Alex Snowball said the case exposed sham contracting arrangements.
"This is a good example of how companies exploit newly arrived migrant workers," he said.
"What happened to Pedro and to migrants at Baiada sites around the country is they are usually forced to obtain an ABN and are engaged as independent contractors.
"This decision confirmed Pedro wasn't an independent contractor and was an employee. It was a sham contracting arrangement."
Baiada declined to comment.