Fast tracking 457 visas amid rort claims

Audits by the Fair Work Ombudsman have found up to 40 per cent of foreign workers employed under 457 visas were underpaid, not performing the jobs they were supposed to do or no longer employed by the person who sponsored their entry into Australia.

Fairfax Media obtained monthly 457 visa monitoring reports prepared by the Fair Work Ombudsman that identify hundreds of cases of reported underpayment of foreign workers and other problems with the temporary skilled migration system. The reports appear to conflict with the clean bill of health given to the 457 program by immigration minister Scott Morrison last week as he unveiled changes that would make it easier for employers to import labour.

A government report, Robust New Foundations, proposes a “fast-track” approvals process for larger companies with good records, relaxed English-language requirements and consideration of a 10 per cent reduction in the $53,900 maximum income threshold. The federal government’s 457 visa review contained a brief summary of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s work, but not the full details of the reports submitted to the Immigration Department between September last year and June 30, according to Fairfax Media.

More than 300 cases have been identified by Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors of 457 visa holders being underpaid, performing a job that did not match their visa application or both. Chefs and cooks brought into Australia on promised salaries of more than $50,000 were only being paid $30,000.

The random audits of 457 visa holders also identified another 420 cases where people were no longer employed by their sponsor or whose sponsor could not be located, raising doubts about the bona fides of those visa applications.

Despite identifying several hundred instances of potential exploitation, the Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors found more than 1000 cases where 457 visa-holders reported no concerns.

The government’s report identified just 86 “salary concerns” and 165 “position concerns” out of 1815 referrals from the Fair Work Ombudsman in a seven-month period between July 2013 and May 2014.

Last week, Mr Morrison insisted that the government’s four-member panel found “no evidence to back the widespread rorting claims of the program made by the previous Labor government when they referred [to] 10,000 visa rorters”, according to Fairfax Media. He said the current English-language requirements were “unnecessarily restrictive” and tantamount to “an industrial lockout” by unions.

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