Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national secretary construction Dave Noonan said the federal government’s plans to increase temporary overseas labour should not proceed at the expense of training young Australians.
“We need to make sure that the skilled migration system is not abused by employers and that we continue to offer training and apprenticeships to young Australians,” Noonan said.
“To allow big employers to look overseas for staff rather than be involved in training local workers may lead to short-term profits but will damage our workforce in the long-term.”
Noonan called on the federal government to ensure employers could only hire overseas workers if they could show that suitable qualified workers were not available in Australia.
“Until that happens, temporary overseas labour schemes in the construction sector will simply be used to drive down wages and conditions for locals,” he said.
Overseas workers on temporary visas, commonly known as 457 visas, are required to be awarded the same pay and conditions as an Australia citizen.
However, Noonan said that in reality the workers were unlikely to complain if short-changed because they relied on their employer for their visa.
Noonan said more funding was needed to ensure employers hiring through 457 visas were adhering to the set conditions.
“Employer compliance, monitoring and enforcement are still grossly inadequate,” he said.
“In the 2011-12 budget the federal government allocated an extra $10 million for faster processing of 457 visa applications – but not one extra cent for 457 visa employer compliance.”
“With 457 visa applications up 40% on last year, and fast-track enterprise migration agreements approved for resources construction projects, this leaves a weak system that unscrupulous employers can drive a truck through.”