This article was originally posted in the Financial Review: click here to read the original.
The federal government will follow Labor in tightening the screws on the use of foreign workers by forcing them to leave the country sooner if they lose their job.
With Labor leader Bill Shorten in regional Queensland for a second day pushing a raft of proposals to crack down on the issue of 457 visas for temporary skilled migrants. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will announce a more modest proposal which the government hopes will ease concerns among its own backbench and the voting public. Labor has already dismissed it [as] tinkering at the edges.
The change, which will come into effect on Saturday, means a 457 visa holder who loses their job must leave the country within 60 days, down from the current 90 days, if they are unable to find a new sponsor.
Mr Dutton said the change “will assist in ensuring that the 457 program meets its intent of acting as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, Australian workers”.
“The change will also reduce the vulnerability of 457 visa holders, who are only permitted to work for an approved sponsor and who are not eligible for unemployment benefits, from entering into informal employment arrangements.”
This could include cash-in-hand jobs.
In language similar to that being used by Mr Shorten, Mr Dutton said: “This change is about reducing competition from overseas workers for those Australians who are actively looking for work.”
“The government values the contribution made by the many skilled persons who work in Australia on 457 visas. But where there is an Australian worker ready, willing and able to perform a role it is the government’s policy that they have priority”
Mr Dutton said it was Labor which sold out workers because it increased the kick-out period from 28 days to 90 days.
“When Labor’s shadow minister for employment Brendan O’Connor was Immigration Minister, he extended the time from 28 days to 90 days citing a need to allow 457 workers more time ‘to look for another job’. This is yet another example of Labor selling short Australian workers,” he said.
“The Subclass 457 programme was not effectively managed by Labor, as with so many other areas of government.
“Labor’s mismanagement saw the Subclass 457 program grow from around 68,000 primary visa holders at the end of June 2010 to more than 110,000 when they were removed from office.
In comparison, under the Coalition, the number of 457 visa holders in Australia has fallen by around 13,000, while over the same period almost half a million new jobs have been created for Australian workers.”
Mr Shorten has proposed a much tougher set of conditions surrounding the issuing of 457 visas. He says they are necessary to take into account the slow economy and high unemployment.
All jobs will have to be advertised for a minimum four weeks, ads that target only foreign workers or specified visa classes will be banned and job ads that “set unrealistic skills and experience requirements” to deliberately exclude otherwise suitable local applicants will also be banned.
Other changes will include tougher licensing conditions in which a 457 visa holder in a licensed occupation, such as electrical or plumbing, must obtain a licence within 60 days of arrival and not work until it is obtained.
In some cases, employers will have to conduct training programs for local workers in return for importing foreign labour,
And employers in specified sectors such as construction who have a set proportion of their workforce on 457s, will be made to employ foreign workers under a labour agreement.
Unlike a standard agreement between the worker and the sponsor, a labour agreement is a specific set of terms and conditions negotiated between the employer and the Immigration Minister.
It defines employer obligations such as the terms and conditions of employment, training requirements, and the required skill, qualification and English language levels that overseas workers under the agreement must meet. The minister will also have to jump more hurdles before being allowed to [approve] a labour agreement.