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ACTU defends unions' use of 457 visa workers

04 Apr 2013

THE ACTU has gone into damage control over the employment of 457 visa holders by major unions as they campaign against the use of temporary foreign workers.

ACTU president Ged Kearney defended the Transport Workers Union and the Maritime Workers Union of Australia, as the government released new figures showing a “spike” in 457 approvals.

Ms Kearney said unions weren't opposed to foreign workers, only their exploitation and their displacement of Australian workers.

She accused the “Murdoch press” for stirring up criticism of unions, after The Australian revealed the TWU and the MUA had employed temporary foreign workers while campaigning strongly against the use of 457 workers in key industry sectors.

“We have never as a movement opposed 457 visas,” Ms Kearney told ABC radio.

“Now clearly the workers being employed by these unions for whatever reason - and yes, they need to show as well like any other employer that they need these workers because there is a shortage - but they are not being exploited, clearly.

“These workers are being employed on Australian conditions; they're being treated very well. I don't see any evidence whatsoever that the rules are not being followed.”

Ms Kearney said other unions had not responded to inquiries about their own use of 457 workers “because we are trying to keep this debate about human rights”.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor said the number of 457 visas on issue in February was 21 per cent higher than in February 2012.

He said the figures supported the government's crackdown on the visa sub-class.

“Contrary to those who consider 457s mainly exist to plug skill shortages in mining states, the states with the biggest growth were in Tasmania (34 per cent), South Australia (12.4 per cent), New South Wales (7.6 per cent),” he said.

“These figures are also concerning given that each of these states has higher than the national unemployment rate.”

Mr O'Connor said the 457 visa program was valuable to plug temporary skills shortages, but the government was concerned that “unscrupulous employers” were using 457 visas to avoid training local workers, citizens and permanent residents.

“The government has always said that the 457 is legitimately needed,” Mr O'Connor said.

“But when we see spikes in particular sectors that are out of step with growth in those industries, we must take action to tighten any loopholes that exist.”

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/immigration/actu-defends-unions-use-of-457-visa-workers/story-fn9hm1gu-1226612297894

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