Sacked workers on 457 visas stay illegally
Sydney Morning Herald
January 23, 2009
A BLACKMARKET of workers will grow as mining and construction companies lay off migrants on 457 visas because of the financial crisis, unions are warning.
Temporary workers, sacked before the maximum four years is up, have become trapped – unable to stay in Australia and not yet capable of paying debts to migration agents at home.
This predicament encouraged them to join a blackmarket workforce and stay in the country illegally, an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union spokeswoman, Jan Primrose, said.
“This is a sleeper issue and it's going to be bigger as the commodities boom shrinks and unemployment increases. Workers disappear into blackmarket employment where they are invisible. They do not exist.”
Temporary overseas workers, who stay more than 28 days after they are sacked do so illegally. This means they are likely to take jobs with poor conditions.
“That means no overtime, no penalty rates, no safety equipment and no insurance,” Ms Primrose said.
Employers are considered to have met their sponsorship obligations once they have bought a plane ticket for the migrant to return to their country of origin and told the Government that employment has ceased. No one monitors whether the person ever boards the plane.
The number of migrants found overstaying 457 visas grew by 12 per cent in the year to June 30, last available statistics from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship showed. At that time, 326 such people had disappeared into the community.
The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union feared the global meltdown which had taken hold since would have created many more blackmarket workers.
The union's office in Lidcombe was recently home to five men from the Philippines, left stranded after they were sacked two years into a job they expected to keep for four.
“They had paid large amounts of money to a recruitment agency. They were sacked without reason and ended up homeless in Sydney,” said the union's NSW secretary, Andrew Ferguson.
“They lived in our union building for a number of weeks.”