ACTU calls for government to limit foreign workers

by Chloe Taylor01 May 2015
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Ged Kearney has caused a stir by claiming that Australia needs to clamp down on the number of temporary working visas being approved.

However, Kearney’s suggestion has received backlash from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), which has said that a reduction in the temporary visas would be detrimental to the national economy. 

Jenny Lambert, director of employment, education and training said that introducing a cap on the number of temporary visas would damage the tourism industry.

“The tourism and agricultural sectors will also be hurt because they rely on those workers to fill seasonal labour shortages,” she said. “The union proposal could put in danger the ability of Australians to undertake working holidays overseas, as the visas are part of reciprocal arrangements.”

“Reducing the capacity of international students to undertake work would make Australia a less attractive place for students, undermining our $15 billion international education industry,” Lambert added.

In a submission to the Senate inquiry into temporary working visas, the ACTU said that the number of international workers needs to be restricted in favour of permanent migration, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Senate inquiry was established in March by Labor and the Greens as both parties felt that a review commissioned by the Government had not probed the 457 visa program far enough.

The ACTU is reportedly seeking a limitation on the numbers of the currently uncapped temporary visas.

“We need to focus on creating job opportunities for Australians, we must ensure our permanent migration system is robust and we must limit the use of temporary visas to reflect genuine skills shortages,” said Kearney.

Statistics from the Department of Immigration show that there are currently 1.2 million temporary entrants in Australia who have the right to work.

Of these, 167,000 have 457 visas, 160,000 have working holiday visas and 623,000 are New Zealand special visa holders.

According to the ACTU, the number of temporary workers rose by almost 50% from 2007 to 2014.

The unions’ submission argues that there is a correlation between the rate of unemployment and the number of temporary visa holders, The Herald reported.

“The working holiday visa should be capped to allow more opportunity for young Australians to enter the workforce,” it claims.

“There is no benefit to the current trend where we rely on transient workers to fill alleged gaps in skills,” Kearney said.

The majority of temporary workers hail from New Zealand, with the next largest migrant groups coming from China, the UK, India, South Korea, the US and Germany. 


  • by SDM 2/05/2015 5:30:30 PM

    I would be curious to know the demographic of people that are unemployed vs the demographics of the people filling temporary visa roles. As an employer with significant reliance on temporary visa holders with specialised skills, I can tell you this is not my preferred situation. It is more time consuming & expensive, with a laundry list of obligations forced upon us (as it should be but a burden nonetheless). We do it because the skills we sponsor do not exist in the domestic market. The ACTU would be far better served to understand what is causing the skills gap in the country and lobbying to close the gap. I have worked agencies who provide "recruitment" services to business for unemployed people to be linked with blue collar type work. Most did not know why they were attending an interview, most did not know how to complete the application form and their general attitude towards work means there's not a chance in hell I would hire them. This is why they are unemployed. The other reason is because being unemployed long term in Australia means you can have a laid back attitude about finding work. Thinking back I would not trust them to pick seasonal fruit. I imagine a combination of better education, a better attitude towards responsibility and work and a focus on building capability to deal with skills gap would be a far better approach for the ACTU.

Most Read