||Issue No. 316||21 July 2006|
Interview: The Month Of Living Dangerously
Unions: Staying Mum
Economics: Precious Metals
Industrial: The Cold 100
History: The Vinegar Hill Mob
Legal: Free Agents
Politics: Under The Influence
International: How Swede It Was
Review: Keating's Men Slam Dance on Howard
The Locker Room
Sick of Ants
Praise from Belly
Visa Rorts Minister Urged to Quit
AMWU WA secretary, Jock Ferguson, labelled the levies, imposed by United KG, at Kwinana, a “disgrace”.
"Employers owe workers a duty of care whether they are Australian, Chinese or any other nationality," Ferguson said. "It is fundamentally wrong to charge people so they can work in a safe environment."
The revelation came as Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, bowed to growing pressure for an audit of guest labour visas.
Vanstone announced a joint federal-state working party would convene on July 31 to examine skilled migration arrangements.
But Ferguson, who has brought a number of high-profile rip-offs to public attention, said the manoeuvre was "too little, too late" and demanded Vanstone's resignation.
"The Minister has to go," Ferguson said. "She has failed these vulnerable people and she has failed hundreds of thousands of Australians who have been denied training and work.
"We have given this Minister every chance. We have done the leg work for her and given the department case studies of people who have been ripped off and this is the best she can do."
Three years ago, the AMWU highlighted the predicament of more than 30 South African tradesmen brought to WA, with the involvement of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and paid less than half the rate of Aussies working alongside them.
Last year, it blew the whistle on labour hire outfit, KSN Engineering, which demanded payments of $8000 a head from 60 Korean welders. It alleged the Koreans all paid their fares to Australia, and settlement costs, in contravention of terms of federal 457 visas.
"These people then found themselves working up to 60 hours a week for a flat rate of $22 an hour. That is, between $8 and $12 an hour less than WA welders, before you consider overtime," Ferguson said.
Last month, WA's Department of Consumer and Employment Protection reported rip-offs by 78 percent of the guest labour sponsors it investigated over a two-year period.
Ferguson said 457 visas were central to the federal government's IR agenda to down wages. Employers who used them were under no obligation to pay going rates and could use AWAs to undermine negotiated conditions.
He said, since the Howard Government took office 350,000 "skilled" migrant workers had been admitted to the country while 300,000 young Australians had been turned away from TAFEs.
Last week, the Age newspaper, reported migration middlemen were charging skilled immigrats up to $15,000 for 457 sponsorships and threatening deportation if anyone complained.
Vanstone defended her government's guest labour system in an interview with the Australian Financial Review, last week.
"The 457 visas aren't a problem. They're a fabulous visa that is really assisting Australian industry to cope with the growth in the economy," she said.
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