Employment plan to allow lower pay and more foreign workers

POLITICAL parties, unions and social welfare groups have expressed concern and disbelief at the Federal Government's plan to allow businesses to seek lower pay rates and easier English-language tests for foreign workers.

The plan, signed off by the government this week, will allow employers in areas with high skill shortages to pay foreign workers 10% less than the standard skilled migrant rate, in an attempt to deal with labour shortages especially in regional and rural areas.

But with the country straining to contain a 6.4% unemployment rate with youth joblessness in particular at near record figures, the new scheme has come in for some heavy criticism.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that it would be wiser for the government to put in place measures to combat the high rate of employment instead of seeking to exploit oversees workers.

"We see in many parts of regional Australia, high levels of youth unemployment, high levels of unemployment of mature-aged Australians, who've been dislocated by changes in the Australian economy," Mr Shorten said yesterday.

"The government needs to explain why it would exploit underpaid labour, exploit underpaid labour from overseas, in preference to finding jobs for unemployed Australians."

The unions, too, have greeted the new scheme with disdain saying that it would devalue the working conditions Australians had fought so hard for and would eventually result in lower wages for Australian workers.

"For an Australian government to be openly proposing to undermine Australian wages and Australian conditions is stunning," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.

"Modern Australia has been built on the labour of migrant workers - but these workers were offered the opportunity to participate as Australians, with Australian wages and Australian conditions. That is the fair go unions have fought for, and that is the Australian way of doing things," he said.

Businesses of all sizes will be able to sponsor foreign workers in categories ranging from childcare and disability carers to mechanics, bricklayers and carpenters as well as medical and business professionals.

Darwin, suffering skills shortages because of the departure of workers to a nearby gas project, will be the first beneficiary of the exercise with other regional and rural areas not far behind. - APN Newsdesk

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