Representatives from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) will appear before a Senate Inquiry into Temporary Work Visas today to raise concerns about the impact of temporary migrant labour on Australian nursing and midwifery graduates and to call on the Government to protect overseas nurses working in Australia who are victims of underpayments and exploitation.
ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the failure of our economy to provide work for new graduates at a time when employers continue to access large numbers of nurses and midwives on temporary work visa arrangements is unacceptable.
“The current policy that allows access to offshore labour when an Australian worker is available to fill a position needs to be addressed,” Ms Thomas said.
“The ANMF will urge the Committee to make recommendations for appropriate changes to regulation that would strengthen the requirement for employers to utilise local workers before going offshore.
“We will also raise serious concerns about the levels of exploitation of migrants working as nurses in Australia. In particular, the ANMF will provide witness evidence from 457 nurses who have been grossly underpaid and faced exorbitant fees to secure permanent residency
“These examples will highlight how the current 457 scheme was being cynically exploited by some local employers, particularly in the aged care and private hospital sectors.
“Not only have these 457 workers been blatantly ripped-off by their employer under-paying them, but they’ve also allegedly been asked to hand over thousands of dollars to help secure permanent residency.
“Unfortunately, this is a terrible but not uncommon, example of how some unscrupulous employers are exploiting the 457 system to hire overseas nurses on cheaper pay rates. This effectively is creating a new underclass of nurses, who receive less pay for doing the same work as others.
“We accept there is the need for the use of temporary skilled migration to fill short-term shortages in the nursing and midwifery workforce, but the ANMF continues to call for strong policy and regulatory settings to ensure that employers are required to genuinely look locally for their nurses and midwives before going offshore for labour.
“The ANMF, along with other nursing and midwifery professional and regulatory authorities, are increasingly concerned that the high numbers of temporary migrant workers is impacting employment opportunities for our highly-educated Australian nurses and midwives – with 3000 graduates still unable to find work.”
Ms Thomas said the ANMF joined the ACTU and other unions in calling for permanent migration to be preferred over temporary visa workers; the capping of working holiday visas; the tightening of laws around Labour Market Testing and a moratorium on the expansion of temporary visas until the Senate Inquiry reports its findings.
The ANMF, with over 240,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.