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Japan EPA concessions create climate of uncertainty for locals

15 January, 2015

The blanket 457 visa concessions included in the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JEPA) leave Australian workers with "nothing but uncertainty", CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor has said.

JEPA, effective from Thursday, includes the same blanket exemptions from Labour Market Testing (LMT) for workers that the Korean Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) has, O'Connor said.

This means all employers in Australia (both Australian and Japanese companies) will no longer have to seek qualified locals to fill vacancies in the skilled trade, nursing and engineering occupations – and prove none could be found – before 457s are approved for Japanese workers.

LMT is now permanently banned in all other 457 occupations.

O'Connor said the Government, just like with KAFTA, has refused to tell the public the truth about what it was giving away in the Japan-Australia agreement.

"Whilst Tony Abbott is proud of his trifecta – signing the Japan, Korea and China FTAs – Australian workers are left with nothing but … more fear of unemployment," O'Connor said.

"We still don't know what is in the China Agreement but it is highly likely they will seek the same conditions, and now it looks like we'll be signing a similar half-baked deal with India.

"These blanket 457 visa concessions should not even be in Free Trade Agreements, they have nothing to do with international trade.

"All these agreements are also binding on future governments, so no Australian government in the future can require LMT for Korean or Japanese nationals in the 457 visa program."

Invalidating original purpose of 457s

"This completely invalidates the point of 457 visas which were created to fill short-term skill shortages when they arose in the labour market," O'Connor said.

"It simply beggars belief that with rising unemployment and the mining, construction and manufacturing industries shedding jobs at the rate of knots, the Government would make it even easier for employers to bypass qualified local workers.

"Abbott must come clean on the detail of these agreements so that the electorate knows the Government in doing these deals is sealing the fate of Australian workers and our young people."

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