South Australia’s peak union group will lobby for the full abolition of the Federal Government’s temporary visa program, including controversial 457 visas.
The demand is contained within SA Unions’ official election policy, released yesterday. The policy will form the backbone of campaigns at the upcoming state and federal elections.
The policy calls on the unions to fight for “the abolition of the temporary visa system as a poor solution to labour and skill shortages in favour of genuine and fair immigration programs”.
SA Unions’ call to scrap the foreign worker visas goes a step further than attacks on the program by the federal peak unions body.
SA Unions Secretary Janet Giles told InDaily her organisation didn’t believe there was any need for the visas.
“We don’t believe that people need to come into our country on a temporary basis when there’s a skills shortage, ” Giles said.
“We believe that we could have some sort of decent migration system.”
Workers using temporary visas were often abused by their employers, Giles said.
“What we’ve found is when people come in on temporary visas, they basically come in at the whims of employers, and are tied to that particular employer, which means that they feel very uncertain to raise issues around their wages, conditions, living arrangements, because they’re really nervous that their visa will be cancelled and they’ll be sent back.
“What we’re saying is that people who come to our country to work should have the same rights as any worker – to join their union, to complain when something’s not right, and to get decent wages and conditions.”
Business SA director of policy Rick Cairney told InDaily the state needed skilled migration to continue population growth and combat issues resulting from an ageing population.
“The whole issue of 457 visas has been made a political issue by the Federal Government.
“We need skilled migration. South Australia’s employment growth was quite low. We need 200, 000 migrants just to ensure that we have about 1 per cent employment growth, and that’s very important.
“Under the 457 visa program … employers have to pay proper wages and conditions or they’re in breach of the regulations, so I don’t see that as an issue.
“Because of our ageing population, going forward there are going to be less people in the workforce and more people who are out of the workforce because of the longevity of the aging population.”
In 2012, 1850 temporary visas were granted to South Australian companies, an increase of 11.9 per cent from the year before, according to Federal Government figures.
The majority of those visas were for workers in the healthcare, construction, education and manufacturing industries.
The top professions were doctors, university lecturers, and skilled meat workers.
The United Kingdom, India and the Philippines were the top three sources for temporary visa workers.