Sign-on statement: welcome 457 visa holders into the unions

Gina Rinehart’s Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) for her Roy Hill project has sparked debate over the issue of “Aussie jobs” and 457 visas. This statement of union activists, anti-racists and others expresses concern over the anti-foreign worker sentiment, and argues unions should welcome temporary workers on 457 visas into the unions. Please read and consider signing on.

Welcome 457 visa holders into the unions: to fight for jobs we need to fight together

We the undersigned would like to express our concern over the anti-foreign worker sentiment from sections of the union movement to the announcement of the EMA (Enterprise Migration Agreement) that will allow Gina Rinehart to employ 1715 overseas workers (of a total workforce of 8000).

A campaign directed at overseas 457 workers is misdirected and detrimental to building our unions and the unity we need to face up to aggressive mining bosses and the challenge of job losses in manufacturing sector.

Thousands of jobs have been lost over the past few months. More than 3700 jobs went in the first five weeks of 2012—from banks, Qantas, Telstra, Heinz, Mortein and others.

These jobs were not lost because of foreign workers, but because of greedy employers who are only concerned with boosting company profits. It is big business, Australian bosses included, that are determined to cut wages and conditions, outsource to contractors, impose short time and push to casualise the workforce to exploit Australian workers and overseas workers alike.

On paper guest workers on 457 visas are meant to have the same pay and conditions as Australian workers, but if 457s are sacked, they have only 28 days to find another employer—or they must leave the country.

Recent reports that 250 Chinese workers on the Sino Iron project in the Pilbara are only getting $70,000 to $80,000 for jobs for which Australian workers would be paid about $150,000 is just the most recent example of how bosses will try to exploit 457 workers.

Without oversight and with the employer having the power over their visa and therefore to determine whether they stay or go, 457s remain vulnerable and open to exploitation.

The right to permanent residency has to be a central demand of the union movement to prevent any attempt to divide the workforce between local workers and 457 workers.

Enterprise Migration Agreements and the employment of 457 workers must be subject to union oversight and employment under a union-negotiated enterprise agreement.

The best way to fight Gina Rinehart and other bosses is to recruit the 457 workers into the unions, fight for their right to stay, and build a united union movement that is willing and able to fight for every job.

To ensure 457 visa workers are not exploited we demand that they have:

(i) the right to permanent residency;
(ii) the same rights and conditions as local workers on the job; and access to on-the-job training;
(iii) information provided in different languages, with translators are available on the job;
(iv) paid English classes on the job.

We reject all attempts to weaken our unions’ collective strength by dividing worker against worker.

Please email solidarity [at] to add your name

Adrian Davies, AEU member
Alan Ashton, Former Labor MP
Alex Loke, Sensis AMWU Delegate
Amy Thomas, USU member
Andrew Martin, AMWU WA
Anita Creasey, NTEU Member, NUS West President
Anne Picot, NTEU Member, University of Sydney Branch
Anthea Vogl, NTEU UTS
Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist and author
Aran Mylvaganam, Victoria FSU Organiser
Aurelian Mondon, LaTrobe Uni NTEU
Avril Alba, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Ben Convey, member of Victorian MEAA & ASU private sector
Bill Dunn, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Bill Keats, StandUp!
Brooke Walford, Australian Education Union member
Bruce Knobloch, personal capacity
Byrnn O’Brien, lawyer
Camal Kokumar, MUA
Cath Edwards, Melbourne Uni RAC
Chip Henriss, ASU member
Chris Breen, Sensis, AMWU delegate and AMWU Victorian State Councillor
Chris Hamden, NSWTF
Christina Ho, Senior Lecturer, Social Inquiry and NTEU member, UTS
Claire Parfitt, NTEU member, Sydney Uni
Clr Christine Donayre, Greens Councillor, Industrial Officer with the FBEU and member of the USU
Damien Cahill, Vice President (Academic), NTEU, University of Sydney
Daniel Cuskelly, FBEU
Darren Whitaker, AMWU
David Glanz, RMIT branch, NTEU
David Joseph, Member, Australian Education Union
Dee Sanders, NSW Teachers Federation
Delen O’Hour, MEAA
Dr Nick Riemer, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Dr Nour Dados, NTEU member, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney
Dr Sarah Gregson, NTEU Branch President, University of New South Wales
Dr Tad Tietze, ASMOF member (personal capacity)
Duncan Wallace, Campus Refugee Rights Club Activist, Melb Uni
Elizabeth Humphrys, NTEU Member, University of Sydney Branch
Emma Torzillo, HSU member, NSW
Gillian Hewitson, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Graeme Lechte, TAFE Victoria University, member AEU
Greg Platt CPSU Statistics Section Councillor (personal capacity)
Hamish McPherson, Victorian Branch Councillor (Primary Sector), AEU
James Goodman, Assoc. Prof., Academic VP NTEU, UTS Branch
Jan Dobbs, CPSU member
Jane Corpuz-Brock, Australian Services Union (ASU), Member
Jann Dark, Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition
Jasmine Ali, Victoria University, NTEU
Jeff Rickertt, Together Member, Queensland
Jeff Sparrow, author and editor, Overland
Jess Xu, Ethno-Cultural Officer, UTS Students Association
Jim Casey, NSW Secretary, FBEU
Jim Gillen, FBEU
Jo Ball, CPSU member
Jodi Sita, La Trobe University, NTEU member
Joe Guinea, NSWNA
John Bailey, NSW Teachers Fderation
John Boland, FBEU NSW
John Durkin, IEU
John Tozer, member of the Builders Labourers’ Federation, Queensland
Jon Clarke , TWU National Eduction Coordinator (personal capacity)
Jonathon Sherlock, AEU (student member)
Jordan Clarke, Melbourne Uni Refugee Action Collective
Josh Coy, ASU member
Judy McVey CPSU member
Julie Ross, NSW Teachers Federation councillor, Eastern Suburbs Teachers Association
Justin Timmins, MUA
Kate Parks, refugee activist
Katharine Massam, NTEU
Katherine Morris, Sensis, AMWU
Katie George, CPSU
Kevin Lin, NTEU University of Technology, Sydney
Lachlan Marshall, Brunswick Secondary School, AEU
LASNET (Latin American Solidarity Network)
Le Tam Tu, PhD student, CPCE, FASS, UTS
Letitia Funston, PSA
Liam Brown, NUW Member, Victoria
Linda Downey, NSW Teachers Federation
Linda Hadley
Lorenzo White, organiser CFMEU (ACT)
Lucy Honan, St Albans, AEU
Lyndal Butler, President, UTS Students Association
Lyndal Carter, CPSU delegate
M McNamara, AMWU delegate
Marijke Hoving, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Marisol Salinas, member ASU
Mark Austin, Delegate, CPSU (BoM)
Mark Goudkamp, NSW Teachers Federation Anti-Racism Policy Committee and Blacktown Teachers Association
Martin Dixon, FBEU
Martin Raspin, Sensis AMWU Delegate
Matthew Henderson, Bargaining Campaign Officer, Strategic Industrial Bargaining Team, NSW Nurses’ Association
Max Callaghan, PSA
Mel Slee, President, RMIT NTEU branch committee
Melanie Lazarow, University of Melbourne NTEU
Melissa Brooks, Marrickville Councillor (Greens) and member of the ASU
Menau Roni, MUA
Mia Hassemian, POMI
Michael Schembri, Advocate NSW
Michael Swanton, Secretary, Association of Australian Workers
Michael Thomson, President, University of Sydney NTEU Branch
Michelle Hoogester, ASU
Mike Beggs, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Narelle Ballard, Migration worker
Neha Madhok, National Environment Officer, National Union of Students
Nikki Amai, Hazara Youth Perspectives Organisation Public Officer
Paddy Gibson, NTEU member, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS
Padraig Dorrigan, ASU
Patchanee Kumnak, Turn Left Organisation, Thailand
Paul Daniele, Melbourne Anarchist Club, Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation Melbourne
Paul Hick, TAFE NSW
Paul Young, CPSU Section Councilor DHS
Penny McCall Howard, USU member and MUA Research and Policy Coordinator – International issues (personal capacity)
Peter Carter, ANF member
Peter Curtis, AEU sub-branch president
Peter Farago, NTEU Member 1972 – 2007
Peter Griffin, United Voice
Phil Griffiths, Lecturer, Political Economy, USQ and NTEU member (personal capacity)
Professor Heather Goodall, NTEU member, UTS
Professor Verity Burgmann, University of Melbourne, NTEU
Raewyn Connell, NTEU, University of Sydney Branch
Ramesh Fernandez, RISE
Renea McCauley CPSU Section Councillor
RMIT University NTEU branch committee
Robert Stainsby, CPSU member
Rosemary Webb, NTEU member
Sam Salvidge (personal capacity)
Sandra Rogers, NSW Teachers Federation Councillor, Teachers’ Association
Saovanee Bunlom, Red Shirts Australia
Sean Redmond, Deakin Uni, NTEU member
Shane Hopkinson, NTEU member
Shane Reside, Organiser Syd Uni Branch NTEU
Shaun Johnson, Delegate, CPSU (BoM)
Sima Shmadu, POMI
Stephen Stefanac, Delegate, CPSU
Stuart Rosewarne, Lecturer in Political Economy, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Sue Layly, Red Shirts Australia
Susan Price and Peter Boyle, national co-convenors of Socialist Alliance
Taewon Kown, CFMEU
Tim Hardman, BJ Ball (Boomerang Paper), AMWU Delegate
Timothy Hume, Delegate, CPSU (BoM)
Tom Barnes, Lecturer in Political Economy, NTEU member, University of Sydney
Tom Orsag, CFMEU member
Tom Yuu, NSW Labor Left
Tony Burke, CFMEU
Ushter Abbasi, casual organiser, NUW NSW
Veenaisi Wilson, NSWNMA, Registered Nurse
Yota Krili, Writer


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  1. This statement is a thinly veiled cover of support for the ALP government’s agreement with Gina Rinehart’s “Enterprise Migration” demands.

    Implicit in it is future support for ANY company that wishes to use the 457 visa scheme to fill the labor force with ANY NUMBER of foreign workers. Take the newly opening giant Indian or Chinese mines in Queensland or the Pilbara as examples where it has been suggested, and in some places brought to fruition, that most of the workers would be immigrants. Under your method of thinking: why not, provided that they are in the union. If they are made permanent citizens, this would add to the problem by enlarging the number of workers seeking employment irrespective of the state of the economy because your “anti-racism” applies independent of the rate of unemployment among Australians, now or in the future.

    In support of your position you use the deceptive argument that unemployment isn’t created by immigration but is a problem caused by capitalism and leave it at that. Capitalism is the system under which workers struggle, not a planned economy. Their grandfathers found in the 1930’s Depression that the huge numbers of British migrants brought to Australia in the 1920’s made Australian unemployment in the Thirties among the highest in the World.

    The reality is that in a world where jobs are scarce immigration plays a critical role in determining the rate of unemployment, in the same way that outsourcing, overt or covert, does. Only middle class dilettantes would propose otherwise.

    The fact is that your proposal is a form of racism directed at Australian workers on behalf of Big Business.

    Maybe when the predominantly well placed middle class signers of this petition find themselves in a more precarious position will they take a different position. Australian workers generally have other viewpoints on the matter despite your calling them “racists”.

  2. JM,

    Big business would love to distract local workers into thinking that migrants are the enemy, not the bosses and the government. The fact is anti-immigrant demands take the unions’ focus away from organising on the job against the boss to lobbying the government to cut immigration.

    It is not true that the level of jobs is fixed either–look at how the ETU in Victoria has organised on the job to win higher employment of apprentices. It is possible to fight the bosses and the government to force them to create jobs–instead of destroying them as they do all the time to boost profits.

    It is well established that immigration actually creates jobs. This is because it generates demand through more mouths to feed, need for more housing and so on. Look at the post-war boom in Australia: there was a high rate of immigration where the government actually paid for the passage of immigrants to Australia through the 1950s and the economy boomed.
    See here for evidence

    You are also wrong about the 1930s. The years of the Depression were a period of almost no immigration. From 1930-1934 net migration was negative (more people left than arrived) yet unemployment kept rising: from 21 per cent in mid-1930 to 32 per cent in mid-1932.

  3. Based on the principles of equity and fairness, all employees should receive equal pay and conditions for equal work. – kd

  4. Here are a few more signatories:
    Sandra Rogers, NSW Teachers Federation Councillor, Teachers’ Association
    Bruce Knobloch, personal capacity
    Bill Keats, StandUp!


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