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Mining companies and the federal government are currently in negotiation over changing 457 skilled migration visas into temporary migration agreements in a bid to rapidly fill open positions within the mining and resources sector. With an estimated 750 000 new jobs created by the resource industry by 2030, there is a signifigant shortage emminent. In addition to job creation, research by the Australia Institute says the mining industry loses a large percentage of its workeforce, leading to a turnover rate of 53 000 at current employment levels.

Currently the Australian mining industry boasts a 19% foreign worker base. An influx of workers to fill skill gaps, Australia has seen the highest number of 457 visa applications since 2008, indicated by the Department of immigration. The visa subclass has seen a 38% increase in applications  with the mining and construction sectors accounting for the majority of these applications at around 20%.Not only are the jobs abundant in this sector, however the Wall Street Journal has labelled them as one of the best paid in the world. Interstaff international reported an increase in the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). Under immigration law, employers are required to pay the same market rate as Australian workers would receive, dispelling the myth of ‘cheap foreign labour’.

The issue of foreign recruitment is an ongoing one with growing concerns in relation to wages. ABC Reporter Greg Hoy states a large number of Chinese workers have been brought in on 457 visas by the Sino Iron project in Karratha and unions have complained that these workers are seriously underpaid and in breach of the law.

To combat the issue, Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says breaches of the 457 visas or the Fair Work Act are taken very seriously and often underpaid foreign workers are in breach of the 457 by being a ‘semi-skilled’ and not a ‘fully-skilled’ worker. Mr Bowen says hurdles are in place for a reason, for protection. Workers must cross these hurdles to justify their skills as ‘semi-skilled’ or ‘fully-skilled’ in order to be paid market rates.
With the Government working towards a solution, it must however be noted the onus is on the ACTU President Ged Kearney comments ” Any plan to ease labour shortages must be matched by investment in skills training by employers”.

Does your company employ foreign workers under the 457 visa? We would love to hear your opinion on the new Government initiatives fast-tracking the employment process for skilled foreign workers in the resource industry, so feel free to comment on this post!

For the interesting discussion ‘Fear of foreign workers strikes Australia again’ with ABC Reporter Greg Hoy and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, the segment can be watched at http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3466949.htm.

Written by Sarah Awan

About Networking WA:
Corporate Event Management Specialist, Professional Conference Organiser

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