The Federal Government’s announcement of reforms to the 457 Visa program has ignored serious flaws with the program, the CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said.
“The Government’s announcement today that it will lower the English language requirements for workers on 457 Visas is a dangerous mistake,” he said.
Only one work-related death of a 457 Visa worker has been recorded since the former Government introduced the current 457 Visa minimum English language standards in September 2009.
But when English language standards were lower, 11 workers on 457 visas lost their lives in work related incidents in just 3 years. All except one were from countries where English is not the first language.
The combination of poor English language skills, the dependency of 457 visa workers on their employer and poor enforcement of 457 regulations is a lethal one.
In its response, released late today, the Government said it is “maintaining strong safeguards against abuse”
“This shows that it is in denial about the widespread rorts in the 457 Visa program.”
A recent audit by the Fair Work Ombudsman found breaches of visa conditions in 40 per cent of the 1,800 cases it investigated. This included underpayment of wages, and workers not doing the jobs they got their visas for.
The CFMEU raised serious allegations of abuse of 457 visa workers at Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill project with the Government in March this year.
“We’ve heard nothing meaningful from them in the eight months since.
“This is a system riddled with rorts that the Government refuses to acknowledge, let alone do anything about.”
The Government has also claimed that its 457 Visa program will ensure that foreign workers supplement, rather than substitute Australia workers.
“Employers aren’t legally required to advertise for locals first under most 457 Visa occupations. If the Government was genuine about giving local workers first choice on jobs, it would change the law.We aren’t holding our breath.”
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