Small Oz mining companies reliant on temporary overseas workers

Research carried out by Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia reveals that small mining companies in Australia will be among the hardest hit by a government crackdown on temporary 457 visas.

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In recent months, the previous Australian government had tightened the 457 system, stating that the visa was being misused by many employers who were bringing in cheap foreign labour at the expense of Australian workers, and the new government is widely expected to take an equally tough stance on the system.

However, according to the ECU research, unrealistic pay demands from Australian workers combined with a lack of available skilled workers, force small mining companies to look abroad for workers, while the larger companies are better equipped to hire Australians.

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Many employers told researchers that their firms struggled to find skilled workers, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising each year.

“Smaller firms don’t have the resources, they can’t compete [financially] in the same way [as the bigger firms],” said the report’s lead author Professor Rowena Barrett. “So there might be a couple of [Australian] people with the rights skills, they just don’t want to work for them.

“What we found was that these firms couldn’t get Australians to do the jobs. So it’s not as though a migrant worker was displacing an Australian worker, they just weren’t available.”

Mining companies have been among the biggest users of temporary 457 workers in recent years. However, the previous government argued that while supporters of the 457 visa programme say that the visas allow overseas workers to fill severe skilled gaps in essential sectors like the mining industry, figures reveal that an increasing number of visas are being allocated to workers in states where mining was not prevalent.