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Senate hears of 457 visa abuse

A New South Wales miner who was sacked and then made to train up temporary workers on 457 visas to replace him has given evidence to a Senate Inquiry investigating the abuse of Australia’s temporary visa system.

Ben Loeve was one of 106 local workers at a coal mine in the NSW town of Boggabri who were made redundant by Downer EDI, while eight employees on 457 visas with less experience and qualifications were retained as the company tried to bring in another 360 workers from overseas.

Ben’s case is only one of many being exposed by submissions to the inquiry. Others involve migrant workers who were paid just $7-10 an hour and made to sleep in shipping containers.

And unions are pointing to many further examples of workers being brought into Australia supposedly to do skilled work only to find themselves doing low skilled jobs for illegally low pay.

ACTU President Ged Kearney, who addressed the inquiry late last month, called for action to ensure the large and growing use of temporary working visas does not impact on job and training opportunities for local workers and lead to exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers.

Unions are calling for caps on temporary visa numbers, tougher requirements for employers to hire local workers before recruiting workers from overseas and stronger training obligations for employers who use 457 visas, including requirements to train Australian apprentices in the same occupations where temporary visa holders are being employed.

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