12 February 2009

Draft employer obligations for overseas workers in Australia released

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Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans has released the draft regulations for the obligations of employers of overseas workers in Australia.

The document specifically refers to the temporary workers on a 457 visa, and the new sponsorship obligations that employers must uphold.  The 457 visa scheme allows employers to sponsor overseas workers to live and work in Australia for their company for up to four years, if the government approves the application.

The draft document is the result of a review into the temporary overseas worker scheme, which is hoped to reduce the number of employers taking advantage of overseas workers in Australia.

The draft document is now open for assessing from the Skilled Migration Consultative Panel.

The sponsorship obligations included in the draft relate to minimum wages for overseas temporary workers, payment of return travel costs for workers and their spouses, and the new powers granted to Australian immigration officials to inspect the employment conditions where 457 visa holders are working.

Senator Evans hopes the review and assessment would secure a minimum wage for overseas workers that compares well with that of the Australian minimum wage, so that local Australians are considered before hiring overseas workers.

"Paying market rates for Subclass 457 visa holders will effectively make them a more expensive option for employers,” Senator Evans said.  "This will ensure that temporary skilled overseas workers are not employed ahead of local workers or used to undermine Australian wages and conditions.

"The principle of the Subclass 457 visa scheme is to supplement – not replace – the local workforce when there are serious skills shortages.  The scheme is not to be used to employ overseas workers at the expense of local labour."

Over the summer period, the Australian immigration department received 31 per cent less Australian visa applications for the 457 scheme, which can be attributed to the economic slowdown in primary sectors such as construction, mining and manufacturing. 


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