Joint Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship The Hon Bill Shorten MP:
The Fair Work Ombudsman will strengthen official efforts to deal with rogue employers who misuse 457 visas, to ensure more checks are undertaken and more suspicious activity is picked up and stopped.
The Gillard Government will give powers to the Fair Work Ombudsman to monitor and enforce compliance with 457 visa conditions, to ensure workers are employed in the right jobs and are receiving market salary rates.
These activities will build on the 457 compliance work conducted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is the independent agency responsible for ensuring compliance with national workplace relations laws and that all workers in Australia receive their correct wages and entitlements. The FWO has more than 300 inspectors on the ground to monitor compliance and investigate complaints in workplaces across Australia.
The FWO will now be empowered to monitor key aspects of employers’ compliance with 457 visa conditions, namely:
FWO staff will also be able to immediately refer any suspicious activity to the DIAC investigation team for more detailed examination beyond these basic checks on pay, conditions, and jobs being done.
The 457 visa program is vital for some regions and sectors where there are genuine skills shortages.
Some employers, however, are seeking to misuse the program to bring in temporary labour when local workers are available, to bring in relatives for jobs that do not exist, or to exploit vulnerable temporary workers. This undermines fairness are our workplaces and community confidence in our skilled migration program.
Today’s announcement means workers on 457 visas are better protected, while ensuring the jobs of Australian workers are not undercut by abuse of the temporary skilled worker visa.
The Government is determined to protect jobs and training opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents, while also ensuring the rights of 457 workers are upheld.
The protection of pay and conditions of workers is core to any Labor Government, and the standards enjoyed today in Australian workplaces are testament to generations of struggle, advocacy and reform by Labor.
Regardless of your country of origin or your citizenship status, if you work in an Australian workplace you should have the benefit of a fair go and the rule of law. The Gillard Labor Government will therefore not allow 457 visas to be abused in terms and conditions.
Employers who do the right thing have nothing to fear from this change and there will be no additional compliance burden or red tape for them.
In 2011-12 the FWO dealt with 157 complaints in relation to working conditions for 457 visa holders, resulting in $207,871 recouped for workers.
The FWO, however, is not currently empowered to undertake checks for compliance with specific visa conditions like the payment of market rates. These reforms will empower the FWO to do so.
The Government will continually evaluate the reforms as they roll out to ensure the integrity of the 457 visa scheme is maintained.
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