Conflict over review of the 457 visa programme

by Ray Clancy on March 13, 2014

in Australia, General Information, Jobs in Australia

The Australian government has been accused of secretively removing caps on the number of 457 skilled migrant visas which will allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers on a temporary basis.


Union officials say that it is impossible to review the 457 visa programme and exclude trade unions from the process

According to the Australian Workers Union (AWU,) politicians are set to sneak through changes without properly consulting unions. The AWU and other trade groups also believe that the recently announced review of the 457 visa programme is too narrow and have criticised it for not having anyone from unions on the panel.

The panel comprises John Azarias of Deloitte Australia, Peter McDonald of Australian National University, Katie Malyon of Ernst and Young and Jenny Lambert of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The panel was established to review the four year visa for foreign skilled workers after the previous government made sweeping and restrictive changes last year including introducing labour market testing.

It means that currently companies must first test the local labour market to ensure there is no suitably qualified and experienced Australian citizen, or permanent resident, to fill that position.

AWU Assistant National Secretary, Scott McDine said that more needs to be done to make sure Australians are not overlooked for jobs.

‘It’s deeply concerning that the Government is sneaking through policy changes in the dead of the night that undermine Australian jobs and conditions. The Government’s announced review has been stacked to deliver a predetermined outcome that will hurt Australian workers,’ McDine said.

‘The terms of reference will deliberately give employers further avenues to put Australian workers out of a job and exploit vulnerable foreign workers. It’s time for the Government to stand up for Australian workers and Australian jobs,’ he added.

But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison brushed aside suggestions that he had opened the way to a flood of new skilled migrants on 457 visas. He said it is not a done deal that labour market testing will be removed.

Australia Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney complained to Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash about the members of the panel. Cash reportedly replied in a letter that the independent panel would carefully consider any submission made by unions.

But McDine is adamant that it is impossible to review the 457 visa programme and exclude trade unions from the process.

Consult Australia chief executive Megan Motto said ‘the 457 visa by its very nature should be flexible and responsive to the needs of business.’

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