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NEW 457 Guidelines relaxed? … JOBS for temporary overseas workers

Eather Recruitment and Labour Hire - happy5

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A new temporary-entry permit proposed by Australia’s Department of Immigration that would allow overseas workers to stay in the country for a year without a skilled temporary 457 visa will create “open slather” on the Australian labour market. At a time it faces growing unemployment, unions warn, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has reviewed skilled migration and last month it quietly released its recommendations to relax entry requirements for short-term foreign workers.

The change would mean overseas workers would not have to apply for a 457 working visa, which imposes stricter entry requirements; including English language tests.

Michael O’Connor, National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry and Forest Products, Mining, and Energy Production Union (CFMEU), warned that proposals to abolish the requirement for language and skills tests for temporary overseas workers will worsen unemployment levels in Australia.

The proposals would mean employers no longer have to demonstrate they had first tried to fill job vacancies with Australian workers before offering them to people overseas.

“It is absolute madness in the current environment, with unemployment at a 10-year high, to be removing even more opportunities for people to gain access to the workforce. The impact on young people will be particularly harsh. Youth unemployment is at crisis levels, yet the majority of 457 visa approvals are for people under 30,” Mr O’Connor said.

He added that one-in-five workers on 457 visas already was being paid below-standard wages: “The 457 visa program needs to have requirements strengthened in the current economic climate, not relaxed.”

Ged Kearney, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), suggested that the proposed relaxation of requirements for temporary-entry visas would undermine Australian wages and conditions: “We find it absolutely extraordinary that the government’s panel has made a recommendation to just have open slather on the labour market,” he said.

Opposition spokesman for Immigration and Border Protection, Richard Marles, said the Labour Party was “deeply concerned” about any proposal to remove labour market testing or English language requirements for temporary skilled migrants.

A spokesman for the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash, said the Coalition government fully supported the principle that Australian workers have priority for domestic job opportunities.

“Contrary to union claims, an effectively managed temporary labour migration program will not threaten Australian jobs.  Rather, it will secure the future of businesses and grow employment opportunities to enable businesses to employ more Australians,” the spokesman stated.

“An effectively managed skilled migration program is essential in supporting employers in industries and regions experiencing skill shortages.  It is essential in restoring growth in the economy.  It is essential in lifting our productivity,” he added.

Submissions to the skilled migration review will close at the end of this month before the federal government responds.

Director of Employment of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jenny Lambert, said all stakeholders, including unions, needed to recognise that opportunities for Australians are enhanced by a strong economy that is globally competitive.  She said the Department of Immigration proposal referred to highly specialised skills.

“Access to these skills can only benefit the skills development of the Australian workforce as evidence shows that such arrangements allow for the transfer of skills to Australians,” Ms Lambert said.

“Part of being globally competitive is recognising that the labour force is increasingly global and strong international companies will be attracted here through effective regulatory environments that allow them to operate seamlessly.

“A balanced and reasonable approach to skilled migration policy, preferably with bipartisan support, is good for Australia, and most importantly good for Australian jobs and the economy. Let this be the starting point for a rational discussion,” she concluded.

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