Critics brand 457 visa changes as deceptive and restrictive

by Ray Clancy on March 15, 2013

in Australia Immigration

Unregistered migration agents could be charged with imprisonment and/or fines

Critics brand 457 visa changes as deceptive and restrictive

Critics of the changes that have been announced for Australia’s 457 visa programme have branded it an anti skilled migration campaign. According to the Australian Mines and Metal Association (AMMA) the changes will restrict the amount of 457 visas granted to international workers in a move it describes ‘deceptive and profoundly unprincipled’.

‘This deceptive anti skilled migration campaign has been full of rhetoric and lacking evidence. It must stop before our government spooks investors into taking their capital and all the jobs that come with it, to other global markets,’ said AMMA chief executive Steve Knott. ‘Effective governance would mean finding those very few employers who break the law and prosecuting them, not making unnecessary changes to an effective and responsible system,’ he explained.

‘The government continues to insult the Australian public’s intelligence and our nation’s proud history of skilled migration by using this campaign as a smoke screen for failed asylum seeker policy and union pandering,’ he added.

AMMA has also expressed concerns about recommendations in the Senate Majority Report into the Greens’ Protecting Local Jobs Bill, particularly the suggestion that employers seeking access to the 457 scheme may be forced to use a government and union run jobs board. ‘The government appears to believe that alongside the ACTU and other union groups, they are better qualified to run the recruitment practices of Australian private industry than the employers themselves,’ Knott said.

‘This is staggering given most of those involved in this discourse have had limited to no experience in running private sector businesses, let alone multi-billion dollar mega resource sector projects. The resource industry has done its heavy lifting in creating Australian jobs and contributing a major component to today’s steady 5.4% unemployment rate. This can continue if the government reconsiders its move to impose more costly red tape and union interference on employers,’ he added.

Quote from AustraliaForum.com : “457 Visa workers are losing their jobs every week. If a 457 visa holder is sacked or made redundant the 457 visa holder has 28 days to find a new 457 visa sponsor or leave Australia.”

Knott pointed out that the resource industry is a perfect example of how small levels of skilled migrants contribute to nation defining projects and help create thousands of long term Australian jobs. ‘Resource industry jobs have grown at 20% annually for the last five years, yet our annual intake of skilled migrants has declined and today represents just 1% of the total workforce. Some $650 billion of major resources projects are slated for Australia between now and 2018, of which more than half have not reached final investment approval. The Reserve Bank has recently highlighted the multiplier flow on benefits into jobs in other areas of the Australian economy,’ he explained.

‘The 457 visa scheme is a responsible policy that allows highly skilled temporary migrant workers to fill critical shortages during peak construction demand. They are sponsored for a particular project, must obtain medical insurance, pay tax,’ he added.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

M Gordon March 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Anti skilled migrant campaign? RUBBISH. Just do to SEEK and see how many ICT jobs are actually advertised. They don't bother advertising because they have no intention of employing Aussies. Then check the number of ICT local people – especially in Qld – out of work. MOST OF THESE ICT JOBS are for government, paid for by the taxpayer. The companies keep the profit, send it back to the USA and employ either their favourite employees from the USA for a 2 year working holiday, or cheapies from India.

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Allen Cummings March 16, 2013 at 5:08 am

The “Insider Program” on Sunday discussed the issue whether 457 visas were being rorted within the IT industry. Having worked in the industry for more than 30 years, I can honestly say that I have never seen a time where it has been harder for both for senior experienced IT professionals and entry level graduates to find and maintain employment. I have no problem with the 457 visa program as such, but it is being rorted.

The IT industry is advertised as one having skills shortages, yet consider the following:
1.Last month 10,000 high skilled IT jobs were made redundant;
2.I personally know of five SAP computer programmers made redundant from my company a year ago who still don’t have jobs…contract or permanent. These people were very highly skilled and experienced IT professionals ;
3. In my specialization (SAP FICO Consultant) website advertised 29 fulltime and contracts roles advertised throughout Australia over the last 30 days. The fulltime jobs are being advertised within the $80K to $85K salary range whereas a year ago these same fulltime jobs were advertised for $100K+ pa; while a year ago contractors were paid $800-$1000 per day but now these contracts are being offered at $600 per day. In total, there were 4180 SAP jobs (all specializations) advertised by Seek over the last thirty days. Overseas applicants can apply for these jobs if they have appropriate Australian work visa.
4.A corresponding specialist 457 visa website advertises the same type of Australian based SAP jobs to overseas workers where Australian residents cannot apply. In the last thirty days, there were 344 advertisements for SAP FICO jobs and 8156 advertisements for SAP jobs in total. The same trends are found in computer programming, networking, and other IT roles.

There are three reasons for the employment problems for Australian IT professionals:

1.Highly skilled professionals are being excluded from jobs in preference for lower paid 457 visa holders. In addition, the salaries and conditions for working Australian professionals are being driven down. Yet we are supposed to be facing a skills shortage! How can this be?
2.Australian IT projects are being tendered to overseas suppliers and filled by workers on 457 visas. For example, the Brisbane City Council SAP project and the Gold Coast City Council SAP project are using offshore suppliers at the expense of local IT professionals.
3.Australian company support teams are being replaced by foreign workers and forced to train them. The company I work for was recently canvassed by an International IT company and offered to do all the IT support and project at half the cost of having internal staff. Or company decided not to go down that path but you only have to have a HR director and CFO who is supportive of offshoring work and local workers get made redundant.

As usual, it the government’s own policy has been poorly implemented and loopholes are being exploited. The 457 visa program advertises the minimum salary for IT workers as being between $50K and $85K. This may be true for public sector IT workers but it is certainly not the case for non-government workers. As I said, a year ago, the commercial rate was double the government rates. Employment agents are exploiting this by getting cheaper foreign labour as independent contractors but still charging Australian companies normal price for the contracts.

A second major flaw in the design of the 457 program is the lack of proper market testing. Originally the 457 program required market testing but this requirement was relaxed in 2009. Now, companies are relying on solely the advice of employment agencies who advertise the positions in the market. If this rort is allowed to continue to operate we will see the destruction of the IT industry for Australian permanent residents. The solution is to ensure that jobs are marketed at Australian market rates not minimum rates, and Australian residents be able to apply for any job advertised.

As a conservative voter I blame the government for creating this stuff up….And it is up to the government to fix the mess. I agree with the recent measures that Labor has announced but why have they taken five years to recognize the problem and why are they are only acting in an election year. One has to doubt their motivation. Meanwhile the Liberals are completely ignoring this issue rather than offering real solutions. The problem is that Australian based IT workers are being exploited!

Allen Cummings

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