Guest worker program out of control

The ACTU says the Howard government is issuing around 400,000 visas annually for people from overseas to take a job in Australia for up to four years.

The number of temporary business visas issued is now double what it was in 1996 and there has been a 24% increase in the number of long stay (up to 4 years) business visas in the last year alone.

The ACTU is concerned by reports that employers are rorting the visas to avoid giving jobs to local workers and increasing the competition to lower pay and conditions.

These overseas worker abuses highlight the ugly side of the Howard government’s deregulated job market, says ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

‘The wages and conditions of Australian workers are under enough pressure from the government’s new IR laws. Now we have what looks like an open-slather approach by the government to allow any employer who wants to bring in temporary workers from overseas to take Australian jobs,’ she said.

Locals lose out, overseas workers exploited in visa rorts

Recent reports of locals left on the job scrap heap and overseas workers exploited and underpaid include:

  • 200 temporary workers from China issued with visas to work at an abattoir at Murray Bridge (SA) – a town with unemployment above the national average and where late last year a major employer closed down with around 160 workers losing their jobs
  • the federal government confirmed that Filipino guest workers brought in to work in well-known Canberra restaurants were being underpaid up to $500 a week below the award
  • Slovenian workers issued with the wrong type of visa and brought in to build part of the Holden production line at Elizabeth (SA) – another area that has high unemployment and where many car workers have recently lost their jobs
  • US company Halliburton imported Indonesian workers to work 12-hour shifts for 80 days without a break digging ditches for its gas extraction operations in the outback.