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457 visa system being abused: CFMEU

Monday, 15th December, 2014

By Craig Brealey

Unemployment has hit a 12-year-high but employers are still being allowed to bring foreign workers into Australia.

If the Federal Government insisted that employers seek local workers before looking overseas, then there would have been nearly 6,500 jobs that could have gone to Australians in the past year alone, according to the National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Michael O’Connor.

This showed that the 457 visa system used to bring foreign workers into the country was being abused, Mr O’Connor said. 

The Vice President of the CFMEU in Broken Hill, Greg Braes, said there was a couple of businesses in town that employed foreign tradesmen but that was not the problem.

“It doesn’t affect us out here so much but it makes you wonder why they are bringing people in from overseas when there are so many unemployed in Australia.

“If there is a shortage of tradespeople, surely we should be training our own - and there’s not much training of apprentices happening in Broken Hill.”

Figures released by the Immigration Department last week revealed that there were 109,830 visa workers in Australia at the end of September 2014; almost the same number as the year before when the labour market was stronger.

The new visa grants were equal to almost two thirds of the net growth in employment over that period, the department reported.

It also revealed that 40,212 visas granted in the past year were for overseas nationals under 30 years old.

At the same time, unemployment has gone from 5.7 per cent to 6.3 per cent and youth unemployment for 15 to 24 year olds has risen from 12.7 per cent to 13.5 per cent.

If the 457 visa system was working properly, there would be fewer 457s as the jobs market got worse, Mr O’Connor said.

“The figures confirm once again that the temporary visa system, which was designed at a time of low unemployment and severe skill shortages, is not working.

“Employers are still taking on workers on 457 visas in big numbers because it’s easier to pay them less, and the Government is only too happy to let them get away with it.”

In addition, the latest audit by the Fair Work Ombudsman, released last week, showed that more than one in five foreign workers on a 457 visa were not being paid properly or doing the job they were brought here to do.

Mr O’Connor said a CFMEU analysis had shown that the system known as “labour market testing” - which required employers to look for local workers first - was far better for the nation.  

Where it was applied to nursing, for example, there had been a 50 per cent drop in the number of applications for 457 visa nominations. In engineering, the demand for visas had fallen by 46 per cent, and 29 per cent in a range of other trades.

“When employers are made to look for local workers first, surprisingly enough, they are finding them,” Mr O’Connor said.

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