Thursday, 27 April 2017 07:30

IT workers' lobby group pledges to expose visa rorters Featured


An IT workers' lobby group says its promise to name and shame companies that quietly bring in workers on low salaries in order to keep local graduates out will not be influenced by big multinationals who benefit greatly from these very workers.

Robert Hudson, president of the IT Professionals Association, said during a webinar on Wednesday that his organisation did not represent companies, local or multinational, and would only work for the interests of its members.

"If we butt heads with any of these large IT companies in the bid to represent our members, then so be it," he said.

"We want all IT support positions removed; jobs and pay scales must be published on the immigration department website; IT internship programmes re-established, and there should be more significant oversight by organisations (like ITPA) with the right skills and knowledge; and penalties for organisations who 'break the rules'."

The current minimum pay of $59,600 for an IT worker needed to be bumped up, Hudson said.

The ITPA has made an FoI request asking for the last 18 months' details of descriptions for IT roles filled, wages being paid, market testing done to prove locals were not available to fill these roles, and the names of companies and the visas granted.

These details had been sought for the positions of database and systems administrators, computer network professionals, ICT support and test engineers and ICT support technicians, Hudson said.

He was adamant that if ITPA obtained concrete proof that any companies were bringing in workers on low pay, then it would not back away from naming them.

Last week, the government said it was abolishing the 457 visa system and replacing it with another category of visa known as Temporary Skill Shortage visas. The ITPA has welcomed the changes.

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.

Hudson said the organisation supported a skilled visa programme if companies were genuinely unable to find suitable local candidates.

"We do not support 457 visas being used to displace local workers, undercut local market rates and conditions and to fill entry-level IT support positions when these skillsets are available in Australia," Hudson said.

He provided figures to show that while the total number of 457 visas went up to 70,000 in 2012-13 and fell below 50,000 in 2015-16, visas for IT workers went close to 12,000 in 2012-13, down below 10,000 the following year and back close to 11,000 in the next two years.

Again, visas issued for IT support and sysadmin roles were around 1400 in 2015-16, and slightly above this in 2012-13 but then fell to about 1250 the next year only to rise after that.

Hudson said these roles were held primarily by ITPA members.

He said the growth of 457 visas was tied to the fact that they were a pathway to permanent residency, pointing out that net immigration growth of IT workers in 2014-15 was 19,600. The 457 visas also helped businesses undercut their competitors in costs.

Detailing the impact of 457 visas, he said IT graduates were unable to get entry-level positions like support, low-level sysadmin or development roles. There had been a drop in IT courses offered at universities and TAFEs with enrolment down by half and there was not a single standalone IT faculty in any Australian university.

"The long-term impact is that we will be totally reliant on imported skills," Hudson claimed.

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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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