Labor open to review of s457 visas

Labor has told the recruitment industry it will consider a review of recent changes to s457 temporary skilled immigration visas that threaten the viability of parts of the recruitment sector, a spokesman for the industry’s peak representative group says.

The regulation changes introduced in October by Federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews mean recruitment firms must enter into labour agreements that require them to meet onerous and potentially expensive training obligations before they will be permitted to bring workers into Australia on s457 visas.

Recruitment companies must either devote 2% of their gross payroll to training, ensure 5% of its workforce are recent graduates, or make sure 15% of people hired are currently in or have recently completed an apprenticeship under the agreements.

This means a significant increase in costs for many recruitment businesses that have previously focused on finding skilled labour, rather than workers that require further training, that industry watchers say will be impossible to comply with for the majority of businesses.

So far only one firm, Brisbane blue collar labour hire firm Workforce Solutions, has reportedly signed one of the agreements.

This means the flow of skilled overseas employees sourced by recruitment companies is likely to all but dry up once the workers granted visas before the changes run out.

In the meantime, recruitment industry representative group the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association has been speaking to both Government and opposition in an attempt to secure some changes to the new regime.

But while the Government has been relatively unresponsive to requests for consultation with the RCSA and its members, Labor has opened the door to the possibility of changes should it win the election, according to RCSA policy adviser Charles Cameron.

”Kevin Andrews has been hard to get and that has disappointed us. We got a few minutes with Joe Hockey but to be honest but they don’t seem to know what the potential implications of the policy are.

“We’ve had preliminary talks with Labor; they have indicated that they are open to considering the issues and there may be some capacity to support a full review of the suitability and need for the labour agreements once they are elected,” Cameron says.

According to Cameron, businesses in the health, resources and IT sectors will begin to feel the squeeze in just a couple of months.

“In IT they’re screaming out for workers. We’ve got a number of our members specialising in that area who say the changes simply don’t make sense to their businesses,” Cameron says.

The flow of new workers into the IT industry that was previously supplied by IT recruiters has all but dried up according to Norman Lacy, the executive director of Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association.

“For four weeks not one ICT worker has been brought into the country on a new s457 visa,” Lacy says. “The feedback I’ve got from members is that its going to be impossible to comply with these obligations. They’ll never be able to comply because a lot of the time they can’t meet the costs.”

Labor’s immigration spokesman Tony Burke did not respond to SmartCompany’s request for a comment before the publication deadline.

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