Julia Gillard and union leaders haven’t let the facts about 457 visa workers get in the way of their scare campaign. But the facts reveal that 457 workers are not taking jobs. And where the jobs are going, the unions have not been willing to fight to save them.

Over the last five months, the same time unions and Gillard have stepped up their rhetoric, the number of 457 visa applications declined.

At an ACTU event in early March, Gillard counterposed 20 per cent growth in “temporary overseas foreign workers” with 1 per cent growth in the Australian workforce, creating the impression 457s were taking over. But it is thoroughly misleading to compare these percentages because the whole Australian workforce is so much larger than the number of 457 visas. 457 visa holders make up 0.9 per cent of the workforce.

A one per cent growth in the Australian workforce is 120,000 jobs. This is higher than the increase in the number of 457 visa workers over the last year—23,595.

There is also no correlation between the numbers of 457s granted and unemployment figures. Even when the numbers of 457 visa holders rose between from 71,000 people to 105,000 people approximately from 2012 to currently, unemployment remained constant, wavering between 5.3 per cent and 5.4 per cent.

State-by-state this is even more obvious. Tasmania, which has the highest unemployment rate, of 7.1 per cent, has hardly any workers on 457 visas—0.6 per cent of the federal total, or approximately 630 people.

The vast majority of 457 visa workers are not being employed in the industries where jobs are going. In fact, 66.2 per cent of the application in the second half of last year were for managers and professionals. Only 26.4 per cent of applications—that is 11,200—were for technicians or trades workers. And only 100—that’s right, 100—were for labourers.

Aussie bosses

457 visa holders are not heavily employed in the industries where Aussie bosses are engaging in a jobs massacre. The nationalistic focus on foreign workers is letting these bosses off the hook.

150 workers lost their jobs at CSR’s Viridian glass factory in Western Sydney in March. Instead of leading a fight to defend the jobs, the Australian Workers Union (AWU) state secretary Ross Collison accepted the sackings and said the plant was “unviable”!

The Viridian job losses follow 70 jobs at Rosella sauces, 700 at Boral, 100 at General Motors, 350 at Toyota and 100 at Santos, all in recent months. The banks are on a rampage too, in particular ANZ and Westpac, with over 1000 jobs gone over the last year. And you guessed it—in none of these cases did 457 workers take the jobs! They have been sacrificed as part of cost-cutting measures by the major corporations, all of which are raking in million dollar profits.Foreign workers and 457 visa holders are not stealing jobs

While the unions wax lyrical about local jobs, why aren’t they doing anything about the ones that are really going?

At Sensis, 691 jobs are on the chopping block and there is will for a fight. Yet the unions in Victoria focused on organising a march against 457 visas instead of pulling out all stops for Sensis.

Tony Sheldon, vice President of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has blamed 457s for taking jobs. Yet Sheldon called off industrial action at Qantas last year that could have stopped a jobs massacre, sending the battle to the courts where it was inevitably lost.

Gillard has attacked 457 visa holders for taking jobs in health. But in Queensland it is Campbell Newman attacking the health system. 200 jobs in a single Cairns hospital are about to go—but the unions and the ALP won’t even launch a campaign of protest aimed at stopping Newman, let alone strike activity. It is the same story with the rampage of the other state Liberal premiers.

We need a fight for these jobs, not a xenophobic distraction.

Amy Thomas

Figures on 457 visa numbers are sourced from the the latest Department of Immigration report on 457 visas

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