The Business Council of Australia, an organisation of rich people whose job it is to figure out ways they can become even more rich, has just this week announced another scheme: removing regulations on visa workers.
According to the BCA, the Turnbull Government should create a list of “trusted” employers who would be exempt from the skilled (457) visa restrictions due to come into force this year. Under the BCA proposal, employers who are “trusted” would be able to avoid the red tape that comes with hiring visa workers and “streamline” their business.
Businesses love to bring in skilled visa workers. They have all the training and knowledge of a local worker, and on top of that, they’re stuck with you and have no choice but to obey you and keep you happy. It’s the modern equivalent of bonded labour.
The AMIEU represents hundreds of 457 workers around the country. We know the fear and the anxiety that skilled visa workers suffer under when they’re being exploited by their boss, but feel like they have no options and no hope.
The last thing that 457 visa workers need are “trusted” bosses with even more power over their lives.
Australian jobs in crisis
The BCA and the bosses it represents are constantly lamenting the terrible state of Australian skills, saying there’s always a shortage of skilled workers and that’s why they need to bring in more bonded labour.
Unsurprisingly, none of this is backed up by evidence. The Department of Education’s own report from 2016-17 says that skills shortages “continue to be limited”, and jobs site Indeed has published its own report showing that 70% of job vacancies are filled within a month.
In the meat industry, our own figures show that more than 40,000 meat working jobs have been lost since 1990. Australia is filled with skilled meat workers that can’t find jobs, yet large meat processing companies prefer to hire 457 visa workers or replaceable, exploitable backpackers and holiday workers.
A history of bad ideas
“Nobody should be surprised that that BCA would propose an idea like this,” explained AMIEU Newcastle & Northern NSW Secretary Grant Courtney.
“After all, this is the same bunch of corporate fat cats who proposed ideas such as slashing penalty rates, expanding the definition of ‘ordinary hours’ to cut down on overtime payments, and gutting the corporate tax rate.”
“The BCA dresses these ideas up in fancy words like ‘flexibility’, ‘competitiveness’ and ‘economic stimulus’, but at the end of the day they mean one thing, and one thing only – more money for bosses, and less money for workers.”
“Relaxing the restrictions on visa workers is just another way to give bosses more money and more power. ”
The BCA is right about one thing: the visa system is in need of reform. When companies are able to abuse the visa system to create bonded labour that displaces local jobs, there is clearly an issue which needs to be addressed.
The solution, however, is not to let bosses off the hook by making them “trusted” employers who can ignore red tape.
“Bosses are already ignoring red tape across every part of the Australian economy,” added Secretary Courtney. “Giving them free reign to do the same with immigration is a terrible idea.”