Protecting Local Workers - Restoring Fairness To Australia's Skilled Visa System

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A Shorten Labor Government will protect Australian wages from being undercut and ensure employers are not using overseas workers as a cheap replacement for local workers.

Labor’s Protecting Local Workers package will increase the lowest wage that a worker can be paid under a 457-style visa, crackdown on exploitation of overseas workers to combat the undermining of local wages and conditions, and make sure businesses look to local workers first.

Labor believes there is no excuse for a skills shortage to last one day longer that it takes to train an Australian to do that job, and we’ll train local workers through our plans to invest in TAFE and higher education.

There are more than 1 million underemployed Australians wanting more work, and youth unemployment is at 11.7 per cent – more than double the national average. At the same time, there are almost 1.6 million temporary visa holders with work rights in Australia, with the top end of town turning to temporary work visas to undercut local jobs, wages and conditions.

Despite this, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has done nothing but make superficial changes to 457-style visas without addressing the significant loopholes that exist in Australia’s visa system.

LABOR’S PLAN

Labor will protect Australian wages including by:

  • Lifting the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), which has been frozen under the Liberals since 2013, to $65,000 with annual indexing. This will ensure it is not cheaper to bring in an overseas worker than pay a local worker.
  • Closing loopholes that allow employers to artificially inflate salaries in order to meet the TSMIT – such as providing substandard accommodation and inflated or excessive overtime hours.

Labor will prevent worker exploitation including by:

  • Targeting exploitative employers, and increasing funding for a joint agency taskforce.
  • Extending the Fair Work Ombudsman’s regulatory powers to the inspection of workplaces and investigation of employer breaches of work visa provisions.
  • Requiring employers to provide their workers with a copy of the relevant collective agreement, award or labour agreement.
  • Providing protections for migrant workers who are being exploited to come forward without fear of immediate deportation.

Labor will develop local solutions to skills shortages including by:

  • Establishing an independent Australian Skills Authority to restrict temporary work visas to jobs where there is a genuine skills shortage.
  • Introducing the Australian Jobs Test to prevent labour agreements from being entered into unless they support or create jobs for Australian workers.

Labor will maintain Australian skills standards including by:

  • Cracking down on unqualified and underqualified temporary workers by strengthening enforcement of skills assessment and occupational licencing requirements.
  • Strengthening the current skills assessment processes by ensuring offshore assessment and testing of overseas workers is by a Trades Recognition Australia approved Registered Training Organisation before being granted a visa.

These reforms improve fairness, equity, level the playing field for Australian workers and protect jobs and wages.

Only Labor has a plan to crackdown on 457-style visa rorts, ensure local workers are given the first shot at local jobs and invest in skills and training.