Working party on foreign visa worker exploitation just window dressing

Published: 15 Oct 2015

15 October 2015, 2:17pm Michael O'Connor, CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor, CFMEU National Secretary

The Turnbull Government's plans for a Ministerial working party to crack down on exploitation of foreign visa workers was farcical given the Government intends to bring in more foreign workers whose exploitation will be entrenched through the China Free Trade Agreement.
"This Government has continuously denied that there is any problem with exploitation of overseas workers on temporary visas," CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor said.
"There are 1.3 million overseas visa holders with working rights in Australia, at a time of skyrocketing youth unemployment.

"The instances of exploitation of overseas workers are well documented - and likely the tip of the iceberg.

"A Ministerial committee is not going to fix the problem when the door is being left open for more temporary overseas workers and less regulation under the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

"The ChAFTA deal will allow Chinese companies to bring in their own workforce on projects worth $150 million with no requirement to seek local labour first and pay them less.

"Furthermore, ChAFTA will abolish mandatory skills assessment in 10 trades. This is not only unacceptable at a time of high unemployment, it is extremely dangerous for industries like forestry, mining and construction.

"Combined with the lowering of the English language skills requirements, it not only exacerbates safety risks but means workers would have difficulty understanding their rights, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

"This Government voted against labour market testing when it was introduced for some job categories, sending the message that employers can bring workers from overseas without advertising jobs local workers.

"And they've taken funding from the Fair Work Ombudsman - which investigates workplace breaches - and given it to the Fair Work Building Commission - a partisan political watchdog on a mission to destroy unions and dilute their ability to support exploited workers.

"A Ministerial working group is a farce, and if the Government was serious about overseas worker exploitation and alleviating extreme youth unemployment it would abandon the anti-worker provisions in the ChAFTA deal and strengthen the temporary work visa system."


Authorised by Michael O'Connor, National Secretary,165 Bouverie Street Carlton 3053