457 fears in new TPP
Unions have issued a warning about the new version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the new deal will allow at least six countries to access temporary skills shortage work visas without having to test the Australian market first.
They say employers will be able to hire workers from Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam in 435 occupations without first advertising jobs to Australians.
Their concerns are based on consultation documents from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which appear to confirm that the text of the new TPP11 will lower Australian barriers to skilled migrants.
The new deal is being negotiated after US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the previous version of the agreement.
The 11 richest Pacific Rim nations have already agreed to parts of the new trade pact, but details are still not public.
DFAT documents suggest Australia will get reciprocal access to the labour markets of the six countries it has lowered barriers to, but the ACTU says there is no evidence of any benefit of those arrangements.
ACTU president Ged Kearney says migrant workers could be brought in for a range of roles, including as nurses, engineers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, tilers, mechanics and chefs.
The said the Government is putting big business ahead of “the rights of workers and the national interest of Australia”.
“Clearly the only allegiance the Turnbull government values is to employers,” she told reporters.
“There has been no analysis of how this will affect local employment, nor have there been any safeguards proposed to protect these vulnerable workers.
“This agreement would be a disaster for Australia and we call on the Turnbull government to immediately cease negotiations until they have proved that the deal will not come at the cost of massively increased exploitation and unemployment.”
From March 2018, the subclass 457 visa will be replaced by a temporary skills shortage visa.
While announcing the changes last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said 457 visas are not “passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians”.
He said the temporary skills shortage visas that replace 457s will require labour market testing “in the majority of cases”.
But shadow trade minister Jason Clare said trade agreements that waive the requirement for labour market testing “made a mockery” of the Federal Government’s rhetoric on the temporary skills shortage visa.
“Turnbull should put Australian workers first and reinstate labour market testing in the TPP for those countries,” Mr Clare said.
The ACTU has also raised concerns about the fact that the new TPP11 deal retains controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses, which allow foreign corporations to sue the Australian government if its laws hurt their commercial interests.