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ALP VISA crackdown welcomed by ETU

Nicholas McCallum

MEDIA RELEASE: Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Electrical Trades Union welcomed today’s election commitment from the ALP to reform Australia’s VISA system if they form Government after the May election.

The proposed reforms would be a welcome crackdown on the exploitation of foreign workers and a long overdue refocus to prioritising local Australian workers while protecting the high standard of Australian skills and qualifications.  

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks pointed to the huge volume of reports and inquiries in recent years which showed Australia’s temporary skills visa system is broken.

“Whether it’s the Wright and Constantin report of 2015 showing employers refuse to address skills shortages by increasing wages or investing in training or the more recent Wage Theft in Silence report from October last year which showed more than half of all migrant workers are underpaid,” he said. 

“There are literally dozens of reports and inquiries that prove Australia’s temporary skills visa system is being run to provide a steady flow of cheap, exploitable foreign labour to dodgy businesses at the expense of local jobs and local training opportunities.”

Nowhere is this crisis more prevalent for ETU members than in the construction industry, already reeling from the damaging effects of the Liberals’ ideological ABCC which is more interested in prosecuting Unions for safety meetings than it is in making sure businesses abide by the law.

“Before the ABCC was created our Union negotiated to ensure employers trained apprentices and skills shortages could be avoided. The ABCC has made these negotiations illegal and now we see construction companies exploiting foreign labour while overlooking unemployed Australians and providing fewer and fewer apprenticeship opportunities,” Mr Hicks said.

Mr Hicks pointed to the high numbers of Australian workers looking for work in regional Australia, where hundreds of millions is being spent on renewable energy – purported to be “job creation projects” – where work on these jobsites is increasingly being done by foreign, often unlicensed and all too often exploited workers.

“With so much work underway in the renewable energy space across Australia, you would think there are countless opportunities for licensed electricians and electrical apprentices to find meaningful, well-paid work,” he said.

“However, because the visa-worker system is so open to exploitation local workers are being overlooked as overseas workers are brought in and exploited.”

“Many unemployed electrical workers from the regions are simply told they are not needed on jobs in their area but increasingly they are seeing at times hundreds of Visa workers on these same projects.” 

The ETU also pointed to the exploitation of the work visa system as the main accelerator of the skills deficit, at a time when massive infrastructure and public works projects are set to begin across the country.  

The massive drop in apprenticeship numbers over the past six years, coupled to severe cuts to TAFE funding of more than $3 billion over the same period, is creating another skills crisis that will have ramifications for generations.  

“We’re seeing young people denied opportunities to learn a trade because unscrupulous bosses are taking advantage of the broken visa system,” Mr Hicks said.  

“The ALP’s election commitment is a welcome step and the ETU calls on Scott Morrison to declare if the Liberal Party is prepared support the ALP’s proposal to fix to these broken rules.”

REPORTS:

ETU Submission to Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the effectiveness of the current temporary skilled visa system in targeting genuine skills shortages | December 2018

WAGE THEFT IN SILENCE: Why Migrant Workers Do Not Recover Their Unpaid Wages In Australia – Bassina Farbenblum and Laurie Berg I October 2018

An analysis of employers’ use of temporary skilled visas in Australia - Dr Chris F. Wright and Dr Andreea Constantin | May 2015  

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Nicholas McCallum

0419 499 886, nicholas@etuaustralia.org.au


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