Unions Concerned About 457 Visa Changes

The government's promise to make the 457 visa scheme less burdensome for business has been labelled "mind boggling" amid concerns it could raise already-high local unemployment.

News.com.au, 14 October 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will overhaul the skilled worker program as part of his innovation and competitiveness agenda because the government wanted the process to be more flexible for business.

The application process for the temporary visa program will be streamlined, and English language testing relaxed, Mr Abbott said.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is concerned it may jeopardise Australian jobs because employers aren't obliged to advertise locally first.

"With unemployment at a 12-year high, it is mind-boggling that the government is making it easier for employers to bring in foreign workers," ACTU President Ged Kearney said.

The union is also concerned the move may harm foreign workers, a fear echoed by the CFMEU.

"The combination of poor English language skills, the dependency of 457 visa workers on their employer and poor enforcement of 457 regulations is a lethal one," the CFMEU said in a statement.

Business has complained the 457 visa scheme is too rigid and Mr Abbott says the changes "are not a way of substituting overseas labour for domestic labour".

Mr Abbott said safeguards would be kept in place to prevent exploitation and protect local workers, with a continued requirement that foreign workers be paid the same as Australians.

The opposition says Mr Abbott's announcement on the visas was unclear and is concerned the changes could have occupational health and safety implications.

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