22 January 2013

Union calls for 457 visa freeze

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One of the largest workers' unions in Australia has called for a temporary freeze on all 457 visa applications while a review of the application system is carried out.

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The CFMEU says there should be a freeze on foreign workers in Australia on a 457 visa while a review of the system is carried out.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has criticised the government's record on allowing overseas workers to be employed within Australia while there are Australians willing to do the work. The government, along with several other unions, claims the 457 visa program for temporary workers is necessary given the demands of the industry.

However, recent figures released by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship show a 57% increase in 457 visas granted to trade related industries in the three months to the end of October, 2012 - 4.4 times higher than the overall increase of 457 visas.

The CFMEU has labelled the data 'ridiculous', claiming that such an increase is unacceptable when the construction industry has shrunk by almost 70,000 jobs in the recent slowdown. Dave Noonan, the CFMEU's construction division secretary, says the 457 visa stream should be frozen and a review into the system carried out.

"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," said Mr Noonan.

"It is clear that the current system is being misused by employers to create a pool of cheap guest workers."

The CFMEU has accused the Australian government of allowing construction employers to abuse the 457 system for cheap labour. However, the CFMEU claims to support a skilled migration program but only if used to supplement the Australian workforce.

"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."


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