Meat industry 'exploiting visa holders'
The Age (Melbourne)
July 31, 2006 – 9:30PM
Unscrupulous employers in the meat industry are exploiting foreign workers brought into Australia on temporary visas, the federal government says.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said some foreigners working in Australia under temporary “457” visas had not been treated fairly, prompting her to consider setting up a strike force to monitor working conditions.
Many Australian businesses, notably the meat industry, are turning to temporary overseas labour to make up for workforce shortages.
Critics of the 457 visa program, which allows foreign workers to stay in Australia for up to four years, say the Immigration Department does not pay enough attention to monitoring visa holders' working conditions.
In some cases, employers had arranged accommodation for foreign workers and then charged them exorbitant rent, the ABC reported.
In other cases, visa holders who were meant to be hired as slaughterers in the meat industry had been directed into other duties.
Senator Vanstone said the government would not tolerate employers abusing the rights of temporary visa holders.
“I think there might be some situations where people have … paid less than they should,” she told ABC television.
“That's not something we condone and it's not something we tolerate.
“I am aware that there are some problems in the meat industry with the use of this visa.
“It's one of the sad facts of life that not everybody does the right thing.”
Senator Vanstone said there had been no official freeze on new 457 visas for the meat industry, although none had been issued for several weeks due to concerns about exploitation – which she had ordered her department to investigate.
The government was considering setting up “mobile strike teams” in cooperation with the states to monitor conditions for foreign workers, she said.