Unions Against Plans for Short Term Mobility Visa for Skilled Workers

The peak union body of the nation has slammed the Immigration Department's plan to make coming to Australia easier for skilled foreign workers.

The Immigration department has just released a paper proposing a short term mobility visa which would let specialised staff to get a job in the country for up to 1 year without having to acquire a 457 skilled migration visa. It is the aim of the Federal Government to simplify the visa system so bringing in skilled foreign workers into the country would be easier for employers.

At present, the system is being reviewed by the Immigration Department, and in a new proposal paper, made another recommendation of introducing a short term mobility visa.

This kind of temporary visa is going to allow specialised workers to work in Australia for up to a year without having to wait to be granted a 457 skilled worker visa at all, which makes it easier for both the employer and the potential employee.

In the proposed paper, it is stated that the visa will allow the foreign skilled worker up to twelve months of entry into Australia ''to complete specialised work which may include intra-company transfer and foreign correspondents.'' Visa holders, in the meantime, will be allowed to submit an application for subsequent visas such as permanent work visas.

According to the head of the business group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms. Kate Carnell, this will assist employers in filling in short term vacancies for specialised workers.

"This is needed because regularly on major projects now a company might need to say install a new piece of equipment in Australia from overseas and they might want to bring in an installer to do the installation," Ms. Carnell stated during an interview. "And there's nobody in Australia who has used that particular piece of machinery before, so bringing someone in for a short period, but longer than six weeks, is really cost effective."

'Unrestricted access to the labour force of Australia'

But Ms. Ged Kearney, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has a few scathing remarks when it comes to the temporary visa proposal.

"I think it's quite an extraordinary recommendation,'' Ms. Kearney said. ''We have 6.3 per cent unemployment, we have 14 per cent youth unemployment. The impact of what they are suggesting is almost unfettered access to the Australian labour force."

Mr. Stephen Durkin, from Engineers Australia, one of the leading professionals group in the country, is also expressing his concern with this plan because of the high rate of joblessness engineers are facing thanks to the mining downturn.

"The potential for this to be rorted is through employers who might be able to bring in those short-term specialists as either fly-in, fly-out workers who might do intra-company transfers," stated Mr. Durkin. "What we are concerned about is removing any of those safeguards currently in place could swamp the local market."

He also said that Engineers Australia is against any plan to get rid of the need for employers to present proof that they tried but failed to locate a qualified local worker to do the job.

Mr. Durkin stated, "These visas should be a privilege not a right.''

In spite of these concerns, Kate Carnell is still defending the proposal.

"If there are Australian engineers that can do a particular role, Australian businesses will use them because its a much more cost effective and time efficient way to go," argued Ms. Cornell. "What we are talking here is about people with specialised skills that Australian businesses need for reasonably short periods of time."

Ms. Michaelia Cash, the assistant minister for Immigration, was not available for interview. However, her office did say that the visa is part of a proposal paper only at present and that the Federal Government would not be commenting prior to public submissions closing at the end of January.

The office of Ms Cash also said that any changes that would take place to skilled migration would be sure to complement instead of replace the workforce we have at present.

According to Mr. Richard Marles, the spokesman for the Opposition immigration, he does not support the short term visa being suggested by the Immigration department.

"We are deeply concerned about any proposal which sees the removal of labour market testing or English language requirements for temporary skilled migrants," he stated.

Source: www.abc.net.au by Sue Lannin

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