The Australian Hotel Association (AHA) has spoken out against claims overuse of 457 visas by the hospitality industry is “flattening” the national labour market.
In June, then Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said there were more than 106,000 457 visas in use in May – 55 per cent more than in the same period in 2010 and representing 0.7 per cent of Australia’s work force.
AHA national chief executive officer Des Crowe has urged the Federal Government “not to go overboard with its own rhetoric on overseas workers” and to instead focus on achieving better policy to protect workers’ entitlements.
“The reality is there were 5390 457 visas granted in the industry over the past 12 months from a total industry workforce of 796,000, amounting to less than 1 per cent of all workers,” Des said.
“This figure includes visas held by many cooks and chefs working not only in hotels or restaurants, but in other businesses such as hospitals, aged care facilities and mining sites.”
Despite making up a relatively small proportion of the industry workforce, Des said 457 visas remain an important part of business strategies to overcome skills and labour shortages that can’t be filled by the local population.
“In contrast to the [former] Minister’s comments, Federal Government agencies such as Tourism Australia and the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations are working to facilitate employer access to overseas workers as a way of addressing documented shortages,” he said.
“If employers could fill their labour needs locally, there would be no need or desire for overseas workers, but for as long as there are local labour shortages, businesses will continue needing to find workers from overseas to fill these gaps.”