Overseas workers could be entitled to a significant pay rise if Labor wins the upcoming Federal election.
Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor has announced a string of measures that will “protect Australian wages from being undercut”.
The ‘Protecting Local Workers’ package will lift the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) from $53,900 to $65,000 – representing a 21% increase.
The changes will also be implemented with annual indexing.
The current TSMIT has not changed since 2013.
Additionally, Labor will charge a levy of either 3% or 6% of the TSMIT per visa per year, depending on whether a business has an annual revenue above or below of $10 million.
Citing the use of overseas workers as a contributing factor to wage stagnation, O’Connor explained the current system leaves local workers “at the back of the queue”.
“Labor believes there is no excuse for a skills shortage to last one day longer that it takes to train an Australian to do that job – especially if a particular industry is booming – and we’ll train local workers with our plans to invest in TAFE and higher education.”
O’Connor also indicated more would be done to ensure temporary work visas are only assigned to occupations “where there is a genuine skills shortage” by introducing an independent Australian Skills Authority (ASA).
Since abolishing the 457 visa scheme in 2017 and replacing it with the Temporary Skills Shortage visa last year, the government has also tightened some of the restrictions around foreign workers.
Labour Market Testing protocols now require a business to be able to demonstrate they have attempted to recruit locally before looking overseas.
A recently announced data exchange program between the Department of Home Affairs and ATO has also been put in place to ensure employers aren’t underpaying foreign workers.
Specific to the tech sector, the current government has also introduced the Global Talent Visa scheme to bring in experienced IT professionals from around the globe.
Labor has also proposed a similar four-year SMART visa scheme aimed at attracting global educators, innovators and researchers.
O’Connor told ABC RN that despite the new protections for Australian workers, Labor still believes that “it’s absolutely reasonable that, if an employer can demonstrate that they can’t find local workers with sufficient skills, then they’re given the opportunity to get that labour from overseas, but they should demonstrate they’ve looked locally first”.