Unions Warn On 457 Visa Changes

Trade unions fear relaxing English language requirements for foreign worker visas could lead to more workplace accidents and deaths.

AAP, 10 September 2014

The Abbott government wants to make it simpler for employers to fill skills gaps with overseas workers on 457 visas.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison will use a major speech later on Wednesday to say the English language requirements are unnecessarily restrictive.

They served "more as an industrial lockout rather than an honest attempt to ensure appropriate language skills".

Mr Morrison believes skilled workers on the sponsored program are not a substitute for Australian jobs.

But he will argue they are an integral part of the machinery that creates Australian jobs.

Mr Morrison will flag more leniency on the English language test and cutting an income threshold from $250,000 to $180,000 which requires workers to receive the same pay rate as Australians doing the same job.

The ACTU is concerned foreign workers will be exploited if standards are lowered.

"Is this an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff policy?" ACTU president Ged Kearney told ABC Radio.

"When are we going to start building the fence at the top?"

Loosening language skills requirements could have dire consequences, Ms Kearney said.

"If they can't read instructions ... if they find it difficult to grasp occupational health and safety, I'm afraid we're going to see a lot more accidents, maybe even more fatalities at work sites."

Mr Morrison also plans to ramp up penalties on employers who take money from visa applicants for a migration outcome.

In its dying days, the previous Labor government introduced laws requiring employers to prove they searched for Australian workers before hiring temporary workers on 457 visas.

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