Aussie Families Will Suffer If We Don't Tighten 457s
Release date: 12/04/2013
As National Secretary of the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) I have been vocal on the manipulation of the 457 visa system by unscrupulous employers.
Tony Sheldon, The Daily Telegraph, April 12, 2013
On rare occasions and only after a thorough search in the local job market, the TWU itself has used this scheme to gain the specialist knowledge and skills of overseas professionals. Central to these appointments is the provision of training and up-skilling for local staff within the TWU.
As an organisation we are not opposed to the 457 visa scheme. We are opposed to 457 visa holders having fewer human rights and local workers not being trained.
The fact that the TWU has used this scheme doesn't mean we should keep quiet about rorts in the system that deny workers their human rights. It's no exaggeration to say that an employer who engages in a blatant attempt to undermine Australian labour conditions with an underclass of underpaid and overworked foreign workers, too afraid to speak up against poor conditions and wages for fear of deportation within 28 days, is engaging in little more than modern-day slavery.
Recently a building company in Canberra was exposed for underpaying foreign workers on 457s, by hundreds of dollars each week. They were also forced to work unpaid overtime each week and were withheld other legal entitlements covered by law.
Actions like these not only undermine workers' rights but result in a race to the bottom where the incentive to employ local workers diminishes, as decent employers struggle against those who manipulate the system. In the construction industry there has been a 6.5 per cent drop in jobs in the year to August 2012 but at the same time a 38 per cent rise in 457 visa workers.
Too many 457 workers are denied their basic rights as workers in Australia and too many rogue employers are getting away with exploiting them.
Whether you have a 60,000-year heritage in Australia or if you arrived last week, no worker should have fewer rights than another.
We're seeing an explosion of demand for foreign workers in areas where the local unemployment rate is already higher than the national average. Instead of seeking to employ local workers first, dodgy employers in places like Tasmania, South Australia and NSW are looking for people who either don't know their rights or who are willing to forgo them to live and work in Australia.
This deliberate undermining of Australian labour rights, conditions and wages is at the very heart of the threat to local workers. With the federal Opposition determined "to restore the access that has been taken away for 457 visas", a Coalition government will see a flood of workers open to exploitation competing with Aussie job-seekers.
Without changes to tighten up the current system, the abuse will only continue and it will be the Australian working public who will suffer.
Tony Sheldon is the national secretary of the transport workers union and senior vice president of the Australian Labor party.
Click this link to read the orginal article on Daily Telegraph.
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