Migrant Jobs To Attract Local Wages

Migrant Jobs To Attract Local Wages

Nicola Berkovic
Article from: The Australian
April 02, 2009

TEMPORARY skilled migrant workers will earn the same wage as local workers under a tightening of the 457 visa program announced by the Rudd Government yesterday.

The changes, unveiled by Immigration Minister Chris Evans, will also lift the standard of English required for 457 visa holders.

And employers seeking to bring in foreign workers will have to meet tougher benchmarks to prove they are committed to training and recruiting local workers.

Senator Evans said the measures were aimed at protecting overseas workers and ensuring local wages and conditions were not undercut.

Under the current 457 visa scheme, all temporary skilled migrants are entitled to a minimum wage of $43,440, regardless of their profession.

That salary will be increased by 4.1 per cent to $45,221 from July 1.

From mid-September, a new market-based minimum salary will apply to ensure electricians, plumbers and other skilled workers earn a similar wage to their local co-workers.

A spokesman for Senator Evans said the new system would protect foreign workers from exploitation.

But he said the Government was yet to figure out how it would set the market rate — that would be determined after industry consultation. “We're committed to the principle, now we've got to work through how it operates in practice,” the spokesman said.

The change was a key recommendation of industrial relations expert Barbara Deegan, who reviewed the 457 scheme last year.

The minimum English language requirements will be lifted for all trade workers and chefs, bringing the scheme into line with the permanent skilled migration program.

Employers will have to comply with benchmarks that are yet to be developed to prove they are committed to training and hiring local workers. Senator Evans's spokesman said the new requirements would make it easier to police the scheme.

“Given the growth in the size of the program, it has become increasingly important that the 457 visa program complements domestic recruitment and training initiatives to meet the skills needs of industry and does not seek to replace them,” Senator Evans said in a statement.

He said the slowdown in the Australian economy and a decline in demand for 457 visas did not remove the need to tighten and restore public confidence in the program.