Unions call for halt to expansion of Australian temporary visa programmes

by Ray Clancy on June 12, 2015

in Jobs in Australia

There should be an immediate halt to any expansion of Australia’s temporary work visa programme until the full outcome of a Senate Inquiry currently underway is known, say trade unions.

Urgent action is needed by the government to clamp down and regulate the entire 457 and working holiday visa as well as the labour hire system and rogue operators much be removed, says the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

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Unions are calling for a halt in the expansion of the Australian temporary visa programme

‘Unscrupulous employers are trying to get around Australia’s workplace laws by using the temporary visa system to underpay vulnerable employees. This is the worst kind of intimidation, bullying and harassment against people who are unable to speak up or get help and are living under the threat of deportation or further harassment,’ said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

Unions have given evidence to the Senate Inquiry in Brisbane about the shocking exploitation of workers on temporary visa, including working holiday visas which are popular with young people from around the world and the impact the abuse of the temporary visa system is having on unemployment and youth unemployment.

This includes evidence from a worker at a poultry farm in Mareeba, a town in the Queensland Tablelands with high unemployment, which had an all local workforce five years ago and is now staffed almost entirely by temporary visa workers.

Unions are calling for caps on temporary visa numbers, tougher requirements for employers to hire local workers before recruiting workers from overseas and stronger training obligations for employers who use 457 visas, including requirements to train Australian apprentices in the same occupations where temporary visa holders are being employed.

They estimate that in Queensland alone there are around 200,000 temporary visa holders including student, working holiday and 457 visas. The top three industries for 457 visa use in Queensland are hospitality with 2,590 visa holders, healthcare and social assistance with 1,770 visa holders and construction with 1,580 visa holders.

‘We are seeing workers on temporary visas being exploited while at the same time Australian workers are missing out on job opportunities. The temporary visa system is broken and must be fixed,’ said Ke

‘The government needs to cap temporary visa numbers and ensure that employers who use the temporary visa system and trying to hire local workers and investing in training and apprenticeships,’ she added.

The evidence of exploitation and abuse of the temporary visa system can’t be ignored, according to Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Ron Monaghan.

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