Big Business rorting 457 visas to undermine our wages and conditions

The CFMEU’s campaign against 457 visas has brought about some long awaited action from the Federal Government. They finally want to address the rorting of the system by employers who are bringing in cheap labour from other countries, while local workers are struggling to find work.

The Liberals, led by Tony Abbott, howl that there is no evidence of rorts and that employers have to prove that they can’t find local workers first.

As in many of his other proclamations, he is completely wrong on both counts.

The CFMEU alongside other unions know there is rorting going on. We know because the ABS figures show that at the same time there have been 68,000 jobs lost in the construction industry, there has been a 38% rise in 457 visas. We know because our members tell us that they can’t get a look in on the big resource sector jobs, despite their skills and experience. We know because a few courageous 457 workers who have come forward have come to us for help because of shocking exploitation that they have suffered.

There is no ‘official’ evidence of rorts because no one in government or elsewhere has bothered to collect such data.

People from around the country are speaking up: on talk back radio, in newspapers, in social media and they’re telling stories of their own employers consistently employing 457 visa workers without even bothering to find out if there any locals available.

Next plane home
The 457 visa system is a boon for business. They can employ cheaper workers who are more compliant and who are frightened to speak up about safety because they are here as indentured labour to their employers. If they cause trouble, they’re simply deported back to where they came from.

The CFMEU is campaigning about this – not because we are backward or racist as some of the media claim, but because we want to defend our hard won pay and conditions. We will not stand by and allow employers to undermine what we’ve taken years to build. We want jobs for locals first and anyone who comes to this country for work should have the same rights as everyone else.

I am the son of migrants as are many officials, delegates and members. We fight for the rights of all workers in our industry, including those who employers have brought in as guest labour and are trying to rip off.

This is not a fight about immigration, but a fight for workers’ rights which is what we’re all about.

John Setka