TWU Welcomes review of 457 visas

By: Chris Smith

The Transport Workers Union has welcomed the announcement that industrial relations commissioner Barbara Deegan will head a review of the

The Transport Workers Union has welcomed the announcement that industrial relations commissioner Barbara Deegan will head a review of the 457 visa scheme to examine concerns about the exploitation of migrant workers and salary levels.

Figures suggesting higher wages for workers on 457 visas ignore the reality faced by many temporary overseas workers by over estimating the wages paid and not recognising the negative impacts on safety and training within the industry.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says the transport industry remains one of the most dangerous sectors in Australia and there is a serious concern that the introduction of 457 visas into the industry will compromise road safety and standards.

"If a worker on a 457 visa does not agree with their boss, then they face the risk of being sacked and forced back to their country of origin. Safety will be the first casualty of this kind of pressure on workers," Sheldon says.

"An overseas worker without experience on Australian roads, with no knowledge of their rights or the complexities and dangers of our local industry puts all roads users at risk."

In the financial year of 2006/2007 alone, 228* people needlessly died as a direct result of heavy vehicle incidents on our roads. While in NSW, there were 1200 reported injuries within the transport industry.

The TWU is also concerned that the introduction of 457 visas will entrench current barriers to recruitment and retention within the industry, and fails to address the industry wide reasons for impending workforce challenges in road transport.

It is estimated that between 80-90 percent of all training that is conducted in road transport is actually of existing workers already qualified and licensed to drive heavy vehicles. In 2006, the Federal Government spent at least $34 million dollars on training incentives, none of which has gone towards training and licensing the next generation of truck driver.**

"Further investment by State and Federal Government’s in the training of new entrants to our industry is the answer to any tightening of the market. It is not the introduction of 457 visas, " Sheldon says.

The TWU believes that drivers brought here on temporary working visas would receive on average $20,000 less than other transport workers within the industry.

The TWU will use this review to continue to fight the introduction of 457 visas into the transport industry as a matter of safety for all road users in Australia.

*Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s Quarterly Bulletin: Fatal Heavy Vehicle Crashes Australia, June 2007.

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