Jobs Prove Fatal For Visa Holders

Jobs prove fatal for visa holders

Philip Cornford
The Sydney Morning Herald
June 25, 2007

TWO Filipinos and one Chinese man in Australia on controversial 457 “guest worker” visas have been killed in work accidents in the past month, a union said yesterday.

The secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, John Sutton, said the workers died in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. He demanded that the Federal Government release details.

“They didn't speak English,” Mr Sutton said. “They didn't have the protection of a union. These men were among the most powerless, the most vulnerable.”

A spokesperson for the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, said the minister knew about the deaths and had called for “comprehensive reports”, expected by mid-July.

Australian employers have sponsored 105,000 skilled workers under the 457 visas, describing them as guest workers. But unions described them as “bonded labour” working for pay rates below the Australian norm.

Mr Sutton said a Filipino stonemason in Perth was crushed to death between slabs of granite last month.

He said a Chinese man was killed in early June felling timber for a company in Mitchell, near Charleville in Queensland. “He was working as a logger even though he did not have the right skills,” he said. The third death was of a Filipino agricultural worker in the Northern Territory who fell from a truck in early June.

Mr Sutton said he believed coroners had called for reports into the deaths.

On Thursday the Government introduced legislation imposing tougher sanctions on employers who abuse 457 visa workers or do not fulfil their contractual obligations.