13 November 2008

Govt report recommends market wages for more Australian temporary workers

A report released yesterday by the Immigration Minister recommends the temporary skilled workers scheme undergoes a massive overhaul, including guaranteeing workers less than $100,000 get market wages, reports the Australian.

Industrial relations commissioner Barbara Deegan produced the report for the government, which contains 66 recommendations for improvement to the sponsored 457 visa scheme.

The key recommendation to arise from the report was that the minimum salary level for guaranteeing market wages be raised from $43,440 to $100,000.  Ms Deegan further recommended that employers be profiled according to risk of exploitation or abuse and that they utilise labour agreements to prevent exploitation.  She also recommended 457 visas expire after 8 years, and that employers wishing to sponsor more than 20 workers should be subject to a labour agreement.

The report has been welcomed by union leaders, who have been aware of the possibilities for exploitation by employers within the scheme.  Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national secretary John Sutton told the Australian the results will be highly positive for temporary skilled workers in Australia.

"This will have a terrific effect in terms of putting some integrity into the scheme.  For many employers, it's been a cheap labour scheme. (Ms Deegan) goes a long way towards taking that kind of cheap labour attractiveness out of the scheme."

Ms Deegan also questioned the purpose of the scheme as a means of easing skills shortages and not labour shortages, by recommending an evaluation of its occupational categories.

Although the Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans, looks certain to accept most recommendations in the report, one key suggestion may well be rejected.  Ms Deegan advised the government impose a Medicare levy on the employer so that temporary workers have access to Australia’s public health system; however, it seems likely that Senator Evans will not agree.

"The Rudd Government believes it is important that temporary skilled overseas workers do not place an additional burden on Australia's public health system," Senator Evans said.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian visa application.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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