04 March 2009

Calls for temporary Australian workers to get site-rates not market rates

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During a time when Australian employment numbers are down and the debate concerning immigration continues, movements to change the pay conditions of temporary workers in Australia seem sideline issues.

However, Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, has been overseeing improvements to the temporary Australian visa programme for many months now, and has been pushing for the introduction of market wages for all temporary workers in the 457 visa programme.

The Minister claims this would reduce abuse of the temporary worker's programme by encouraging employers to employ local workers first.

However, according to Fairfax newspapers, Adelaide Mushrooms chairman Douglas Schirripa argues that the introduction of an Australia-wide market wage for overseas workers is unfair.

Schirripa claims individual businesses should set the base wage for its workers so that overseas workers do not end up earning more than their local counterparts earn. 

"If they’re on a market rate, we won’t employ them," he said.  "Why should I pay them any different to the local people?  Wage differentiation in the workplace is going to brew disenchantment."

Murray Bridge New Settler Services coordinator, Nayano Taylor-Neumann, agrees that overseas workers should be earning the same rates as their Australian co-workers, but that businesses should determine the pay scale and not the market rate.

Senator Evans said the purpose of the market rate is to ensure Australian wages are not undercut by overseas workers.

"The principle of the subclass 457 visa scheme is to supplement - not replace - the local workforce when there are serious skills shortages."

The ‘Skilled Migration Consultative Panel’, set up by the Government, is currently reviewing the temporary Australian working visa system and how best to implement changes to the wages for overseas workers.

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