Wading your way through the 457 Visa propaganda

| May 14, 2013

The 457 Visa system has seen much criticism and debate in recent times. IR specialist Michael Cosgrove highlights some of the mistruths associated with using foreign workers.

“457 Visas undercut wages and conditions” – This is one of most intensive statements in regards to 457 Visa workers, one of which is completely inaccurate and one of the biggest IR lies in recent times. 

Employers have the 457 Visa system available to them to sponsor overseas workers to fill specialist roles, and roles that they have been unable to fill using Australian workers.

The Government has in place a checks and balance system that is designed to ensure that the need for the 457 Visa worker is genuine and that no Australian worker is being overlooked in favor of “foreign labour”.

Employers must display that the terms and conditions of employment are no less favourable than the terms and conditions which an “equivalent australian” employee is or would be receiving.

Now whilst the debate of “rorting” the system could go on for months, the simple fact is that they don’t drive down wages and conditions at all.

457 Visa holders have all the protections under the Fair Work Act that any other employee has. They have access to Unfair Dismissal and Adverse Action Claims. They are remunerated at the appropriate classification level in an Enterprise Agreement or Modern Award.

If they are not, then there is a system in place whereby the employee can access assistance to address the issue. The Fair Work Ombudsman and Department of Immigration and Citizenship work together to ensure that 457 visa holders understand their legal rights when working in Australia.

So, if they have the same rights as any other Australian worker, are required to be paid as per the applicable Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement Classification, how exactly are they undercutting wages and conditions?

The media’s role in this issue cannot be overlooked. The inconsistent, inaccurate and headline grabbing statements only succeed in distorting the truth. To sensationalise lies is to feed the unwarranted sentiments towards foreign workers and the employers who have genuine needs for their skills.

The next time you see a headline or hear a statement about 457 visa workers remember, they too are workers striving for success and perhaps a better life for themselves and their families. No different to any Australian worker, but if the employer has a genuine need and has adhered strictly to the requirements, then they should not be punished, because it may just be their job that is keeping that business open, and hundreds of their Australian co-workers in a job themselves.

Michael Cosgrove is the Owner/Director and Senior Industrial Relations Consultant for Rivercity Consulting. He is a published subject matter expert in My Business and Family Business Magazines, and a regular contributor to several HR and IR blogs and publications.