Labor says the 457 visa program is driving down wages for Australian workers, despite its own reforms in 2009 requiring temporary skilled workers to be paid market rates.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor made the claim today, saying temporary skilled workers on 457 visas were working for less money than Australians.
“There is a decrease in wages where there has been a saturation of 457s in a given occupation,” Mr O’Connor told Sky News.
“Now if indeed there was a skills shortage, you wouldn’t be seeing a significant decrease in wages at all. But we are seeing that clearly because there are abuses in place.”
He added: “If you are willing to pay people less than you would have to pay a local worker, then of course people would take that option.”
Mr O’Connor failed to provide evidence for the claim, saying his department was “getting further work done on this”.
But he said, again without citing evidence, that there had been a “significant spike in abuse”, a “much higher level of complaint” by local workers and “a greater level of disquiet” over the conduct of businesses.
“I am looking at trying to precisely estimate the proportion,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the government’s 2009 changes to 457 visa rules, which required temporary skilled migrants to be paid market rather than minimum rates, had initially put a stop to rorts.
“But I think what has happened since is people have been able to get around the system,” Mr O’Connor said.
“So we need not only more information from employers to demonstrate that they are genuine skilled jobs … but we also have to ensure that there are capacities for the department to collect information to substantiate the veracity of those claims where there are doubts about the applications,” he said.
Australian Mines and Metals Association chief Steve Knott rejected Mr O’Connor’s comments as “pathetic, base-level and bordering on xenophobic”.
“It’s just nonsense. It’s just playing into this anti-foreign worker crusade they are on,” Mr Knott said.
“If you put a 457 visa worker on a major project and that person is being paid one cent less than the person next to them, the job stops.”
He said just one per cent of workers in the resources industry were 457 visa holders, down from 2.5 per cent in 2007.
Market rates in the industry were determined by supply and demand of labour, not whether the workers were Australian, Mr Knott said.
But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver maintained Australian workers were missing out on mining jobs.
“We now have a situation that we’ve got in the northwest, the resource sector is booming, but we’ve got workshops lying around that are empty, no-one’s employing apprentices,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.
“If we’ve got 30,000 people that are wanting to get a start in the resource sector and yet at the same time we’re seeing a significant explosion in the number of 457 visa workers coming into the country, well, I think those figures speak for themselves.”Source: The Australian – “Imported workers on 457 visas are being paid less, says Brendan O’Connor”
- Australian government plans changes to 457 (temporary work) visa conditions (craighill.net)
- Minister doesn’t know extent of visa abuse (news.theage.com.au)
- Immigration Minister defends 457 visa crackdown (abc.net.au)
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