Labor’s attack on 457 workers is racist scapegoating

Bill Shorten has stepped up his attack on 457 visas in the wake of Trump’s election in the US.

Drawing the conclusion that xenophobia is the key to winning support amongst workers, he declared, “We’re not going to lose our blue-collar voters like the Democrats did.”

Shorten has blamed migrant workers for unemployment, claiming temporary workers from overseas are, “taking the jobs of nurses, motor mechanics, carpenters, auto-electricians”.

In words that could have come from the mouth of Trump, Shorten declared, “We will buy Australian, build Australian, make in Australia and employ Australians”.

Both Labor and The Greens moved amendments to Turnbull’s ABCC legislation designed to make it harder to employ 457 visa workers in the construction industry. The Greens openly declared this was an attempt to see if racist Pauline Hanson was “serious” about putting curbs on foreign workers.

This is a dagger to the heart of union organising in a country with such a large migrant population.

If local workers think migrants are to blame for stealing jobs and driving down wages this will set us against each other and divide the working class.

There is no clear distinction between temporary and permanent migrants. There are only 94,890 primary 457 visa workers in Australia according to the latest statistics. But 190,000 permanent migrants are accepted every year. Many temporary visa workers will go on to stay here permanently—it is estimated they will make up 70 per cent of the permanent migrants accepted over the next few years.

Bosses do try to exploit migrant workers and employ them on poor wages and conditions. The solution to this is to organise them into the unions and fight to demand better conditions, not to campaign against them coming here.

The Coalition responded with a disgraceful move to reduce the period 457 workers are allowed to remain in the country if they lose their job. They will now have just 60 days, instead of 90, to find another job or face deportation. This will only make 457 workers even more vulnerable to exploitation, because their boss controls their right to be in the country.

It’s not migrant workers responsible for unemployment and job cuts. Rio Tinto has just announced 500 job cuts in WA. This is driven by the desire to maintain profits. Greedy bosses and government cuts are what is really responsible for unemployment.

By James Supple

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