57% increase in temporary work visas in trades, despite job losses for local workers
New figures from the Immigration Department show a shocking increase in the granting of 457 visas for trades occupations, despite the slowdown in the construction sector and other parts of the economy.
CFMEU National Construction Division Secretary Dave Noonan said the union would be seeking an urgent explanation from the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and a temporary freeze on the use of 457 visas for trades occupations.
“At this rate we’re looking at around 15,000 457 visas in the trades in 2012-13”, Mr Noonan said.
The official Immigration Department figures show that:
- In the 4 months to 31 October 2012, the number of 457 visas granted in trades occupations (4,880) was 57% more than in the same period 12 months ago.
- This increase was 4.4 times higher than the overall increase in 457 visas.
- 40 per cent of the 457 visas granted for trades occupations were in NSW and Victoria
- In 2011-12, 9000 Working Holiday Visa holders were granted 457 visas.
- In 2011-12, 10,600 former Overseas Student Visa holders were granted 457 visas.
“This increase in the use of temporary visa workers is ridiculous at a time when 68,000 jobs have been lost in construction in the last year and many skilled construction workers are looking for work,” Mr Noonan said.
“It is clear that the current system is being misused by employers to create a pool of cheap guest workers. The CFMEU supports an appropriate skilled migration program, but we do not support the excessive use of temporary visas when there are Australians with the necessary skills looking for work.
“Workers on 457 visas rely on their employer to keep their temporary visa status and then to qualify for an employer-sponsored permanent visa. This creates a workforce that cannot speak up about poor safety or being illegally underpaid.
“There is still no obligation for employers to try and find local workers before the use 457 visa holders, so the system is ripe for abuse and too many employers are taking advantage of the system to get cheap compliant labour.
“This is why the CFMEU has called for Australian workers to have a legally enforceable first right to Australian jobs.”
Mr Noonan said that last year only 4% of 457 Visa employers were audited by the Department to ensure that proper wages were being paid.
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