Foreign workers filling boom jobs

ALMOST 2500 foreign workers were brought to Queensland in the past year to fill vacancies in mining and construction.

Figures from Department of Immigration and Citizenship showed in the 12 months to February 21, a figure of 34 per cent of international workers to the state were delivered to these boom industries.

The numbers illustrate the disparity between the state's boom and bust economies, as a skills crisis grips part of the state even as more than 50,000 attended the Queensland Government's recent sessions on how to join the resources industry.

The demand for talented overseas workers is only increasing, with British workers easily most used, as the United States and India almost tie for second.

About 1360 construction workers arrived in the past 12 months on 457 or "Temporary business long stay" visas.

That is more than double the 670 construction workers that arrived the year before.

For mining, international worker numbers increased from 560 to 1180 in the same period.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union construction state secretary Michael Ravbarcor said the use of these visas was a way to "bring in foreign workers who (businesses) can exploit by paying lower wages".

"Their employer can threaten to cancel their visa and ship the 457 worker home if they bring up any concerns of safety or wage conditions," Mr Ravbar said.

He added that the Housing Industry of Australia and Master Builders Queensland - both employee groups - believed the skills shortage was exaggerated.

The immigration figures showed newly-arrived construction workers earned a total of $124,400 a year on average - an amount higher than their counterparts in other states apart from the Northern Territory.

Mine workers on a 457 visa earned a total of $131,900 on average - with only Western Australia and Northern Territory paying more.

Chamber of Commerce Industry Queensland advocacy general manager Nick Behrenscor said the state needed workers because the few people who could do the job would not move to regional areas.

"They don't want to go west, they want to stay on the eastern seaboard and aren't prepared to relocate to regional Queensland," he said.

"The process is very stringent, you cannot source a 457 visa if there are people to fill the position."

He said accusations of poor pay by unions was "an absolute furphy".

As more workers were sucked into the black hole of the mining industry, he said skilled construction workers in isolated or regional areas had to be brought from elsewhere.

"If you look at the broad economy, you could argue that we are undergoing poor economic conditions which makes you think we don't need 457s," he said.

"But parts of the economy are doing very well and, accordingly, they're continuing to need skills in construction, mining and health."

Coming to the land Down Under
In the past 12 months:

  • 7380 - number of workers coming to Queensland on 457 visas in 2011/12.
  • Of those 1360 (18.4%) were for construction jobscor, another 1180 (16%) were in miningcor
  • The amount of workers on 457 visas for the two industries doubled in 12 months.
  • In total for Queensland, 1710 came from the UK
  • 740 came from the United States
  • 720 from India
  • 590 from Ireland.

Topics:  457 visas department of immigration and citizenship

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