Wednesday, 26 April 2017 11:08

Indian outsourcing firms silent on 457 visa changes Featured

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Indian outsourcing firms operating in Australia are making no comment about the Australian government's move to abolish 457 visas and introduce another category known as Temporary Skill Shortage visas.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement about the abolition of the 457 class on 17 April, 21 years after it was introduced by another Coalition leader, John Howard.

The Indian government said a day after the announcement that it would examine the new visa system in the context of bilateral free trade talks.

Indians are by far the majority of workers in Australia on 457 visas, with a quarter of the number being from that country. The UK and China are next, with 19.5% and 5.8% respectively.

Indians are heavily represented in the ICT sector, with companies like Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and TechMahindra among the better-known names that bring workers to Australia.

TCS, for example, has IT contracts with at least three big Australian companies; Qantas, Westpac and AGL. All these contracts have led to a sizeable number of Australian technical staff being made redundant.

All four companies were contacted by iTWire on 18 April for comment and, when they failed to respond, reminded about it on 24 April.

The 457 visa allowed a worker to stay for four years and apply for permanent residence after two years. The TSS visas are of two kinds: two years and four years, with the latter only granted to those whose profession is on Australia's medium and long-term strategic skilled list. An application for permanent residence can be lodged after three years.

Only Infosys was willing to offer a statement, but sidestepped the main question: the abolition of the 457 visa.

Wilhelmina Duyvestyn, the head of marketing for Infosys in Australia and New Zealand, told iTWire: "We are deeply committed to helping Australian clients leverage technology to transform their businesses, empower their employees in new ways, and become even more competitive.

"To do this, we continue to invest in the local communities in which we operate, including hiring local Australian top talent.

"It is our endeavour to help clients leverage the best Australian talent together with the best global talent, to drive economic growth in the Australia, ensure the Australia is at the forefront of innovation, and bring skills and education in the new technologies."

TCS did not send a direct reply to iTWire's query.

However, sources linked to TCS indicated that the company, which recently announced it would be setting up an innovation lab in Australia, wanted to study the implications of the policy before commenting.

Given that, it did not wish to say anything on the record, these sources said.

TechMahindra's Shalini Singh said on Tuesday morning that the company would respond by close of business Indian time (10.30pm AEST on Tuesday) but no response has been received.

Wipro did not respond to iTWire's query.

When the new 457 policy was announced, an Indian external affairs spokesman in New Delhi said the government was "examining consequences of the new policy in consultation with all stakeholders".

"This is also a matter we will be looking at in the context of Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA) negotiations," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, referring to bilateral talks for a free trade deal.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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