Monday, May 28, 2012

No 457 visas - full rights for migrants

Full rights for migrant workers - not "guest labour" exploitation
Workers on temporary visas are over a barrel because they depend on the boss for their residency. The problem is not migrant workers, but the rotten 457 system and other visa rorts the employers get up to. Of course Australia was built by migrants, and the expansion in both the mining and offshore oil and gas industries is going to need workers from both interstate and overseas.

But the migrants who made Australia home after the Second World War were given permanent residency with full citizenship rights. Many of them became valuable members of the union movement. That's how it should be today. As long as a temporary visa or "guest worker" system exists, bosses will use it to push down everyone's conditions. The Gillard government must scrap it.

Our unions need to join and organise 457 visa workers so the union can give them a voice. These workers are treated as second class citizens which undermines wages and conditions of all workers. If they are on union agreements and the same rates and conditions as the rest of the industry, then the bosses 'divide-and-rule' tactic is neutralised.

Guarantees on local content AND social objectives
We need a government policy that requires locally produced infrastructure for the mining and offshore projects. But by itself this would not stop contracts from going to the lowest-paying, most anti-union Australian employers.

In return for local content guarantees, the manufacturers that benefit must sign up to important social commitments. These could include union negotiated agreements, apprenticeship ratios, industry rates for 457 visa workers and employment for indigenous people. The agreements between the AMWU-ETU-MUA and a number of Aboriginal communities around the country to secure real training and jobs for young indigenous people are an example of this.

[The text above is from the WA Socialist Alliance May Day statement which can be downloaded in full from here.]