Home World Business Abolition of 457 visas is “spin over substance”, say unions

Abolition of 457 visas is “spin over substance”, say unions

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Trade unions have warned the 457 temporary work visa program will simply be rebadged with a different name and fail to put Australian jobs first.

The federal government will introduce a Temporary Skill Shortage Visa of two to four years to replace the 457 temporary visa for skilled workers.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey. Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey.  Photo: Supplied

The Australian Council of Trade Unions said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement was “more spin than substance”.

“On the face of it, it looks like a cynical attempt to rebrand a wildly unpopular policy,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“It doesn’t matter what you call the visa scheme itself, what matters is that Malcolm Turnbull put an end to the exploitation of workers and of work visas.”

Ms Kearney said workers from overseas needed to fill genuine skills gaps.

“It is unlikely Malcolm Turnbull’s proposal will do anything to remedy the chronic exploitation of our work visa system,” she said.

“Where workers can come to Australia and do entry-level jobs like retail shop assistants or kitchenhands, we still have a broken system.

ACTU president Ged Kearney. ACTU president Ged Kearney. Photo: Louise Kennerley

“Unions want to see a full tripartite review mechanism for work visas and rigorous labour market testing.” 

The secretary of Unions NSW Mark Morey described Mr Turnbull’s move as a “rebrand” that was “tinkering at the edges”.

“It’s unlikely there will be any real change,” Mr Morey said.

“Our immigration system is being used to exploit migrant workers and create a two-tiered system of workplace rights.

“What we really need is a root and branch review, so that migrant exploitation and wage theft is properly tackled and Australian standards are both maintained and improved.”

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union secretary Dave Noonan said the real issue that needed to be addressed within the construction industry was cracking down on the rorting of student visas.

“Working holiday visas are not being used as a cultural exchange, as intended,” Mr Noonan said. “Some employers are using them to employ entire workforces and exclude Australian residents and citizens of employment.”

Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said his union had long called for changes to the 457 visa program “because it has long ripped off Australian workers from getting access to jobs”.

He said the devil was in the detail of the government’s announcement.

“We want to see the substance behind it before we start singing praises,” Mr Walton said.

“If it is just window dressing and changing the program to a similar one with another name, it is not going to benefit Australian workers in the long run.”

Mr Walton said labour market testing needed to be scrutinised to ensure jobs were genuinely advertised at market rates to prevent widespread abuse.

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