How the 457 visa ban will affect Rockhampton's unemployed

Will banning 457 visa workers from fast food improve our employment?
Will banning 457 visa workers from fast food improve our employment? Contributed

IS REGIONAL unemployment going to be helped with the new 457 visa ban for fast food workers - or will we still be fighting for jobs?

On Thursday the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton controversially scrapped Labor's Fast Food Industry Labour Agreement, introduced in 2012, which allowed an influx of overseas workers to obtain employment with fast tracked visas.

Mr Dutton said the rationale behind the move was that "Australian workers, particularly young Australians, must be given priority" when it comes to employment.

This decision looks like a win for regional areas, like Rockhampton, with high unemployment, but closer inspection shows the change will do little to help get more people into the work force.

Sydney University's senior lecturer in work and organisational studies Dr Chris F. Wright said the government's "band-aid" solution will force businesses to hire closer to home, but statistically won't make much of a dent.

"For the 500 employees on this visa, it will require their employers to look more readily to the local labour market to address skills needs visas across the country," Dr Wright said.

"But, we're talking about 500 visas in this industry out of around 100,000 457 visas nationally and around half a million temporary and permanent visas across the country.

"I think it's a bit of a headline grabbing initiative by the government."

According to statistics from the Department of Immigrations and Border Protection, Rockhampton only had 12 accommodation and food services workers on 457 visas during the 2015-2016 financial year - Brisbane had 452.

In comparison, Rockhampton's abattoirs only employed 25 457 visa holders during 2015-2016 - this is down from 195 in 2012-2013.

So what is a 457 visa, who can get one and did they become so important during the mining boom?

According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the 457 visa "is designed to enable employers to address labour shortages by bringing in genuinely skilled workers where they cannot find an appropriately skilled Australian".

It's the most commonly used program by employers to use overseas workers on a temporary basis and once granted allows the holder and any eligible dependants to live and work in Australia for up to four years.

457 visa holders must be already skilled in at least a supervisor role, meaning they are unable to gain Australian employment in entry level roles.

Labor MP Tony Burke told Sky News the Fast Food Industry Labour Agreement for 457 visas was important when Australia was experiencing a mining boom, but was now outdated.

"People were able to get much higher paying jobs in the mining sector, so where you ended up with your vacancies that you couldn't get Australians to fill were your places like fast food," explained Mr Burke.

"If ... Australian workers were getting more highly-paid jobs in the resources sector, and overseas workers were getting the lower-paid jobs, that's hardly against the national interest.

"But we don't have that problem anymore, the mining boom is over."

Dr Wright said a benefit to the policy being scrapped was local employees could be trained up to higher level positions that were previously held by more experienced 457 visa workers, but it would take commitment from employers.

"Regional employers often do face acute challenges in recruiting workers to fill jobs, but at the same time many regional areas also experience high unemployment as well," he said.

"These jobs potentially could produce pathways for lower skilled workers to move into higher skilled jobs, so more effective training by employers could be a way of addressing this.

"Employers need to get more serious about developing career paths in the hospitality and fast food industry."

Topics:  457 visa employment jobs peter dutton unemployment

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