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As the construction and resources industries continue to draw skilled workers away from other sectors on the domestic job market, international workers are being called on more frequently to fill the gaps.

Information from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) shows that the number of long-stay business visas issued for states that are experiencing these economic boosts has exploded on the past 12 months.

Nearly 34 per cent of international employees in Queensland were hired in positions that related to mining or project development.
On top of this, the use of the 457 subclass for construction professionals has increased, seeing 1,360 new arrivals – approximately twice the volume from the same time last year.

Many of these skilled migrant workers were sourced directly from the UK – where tough economic times have seen a reduction in the number of commercial-grade projects – leaving professionals to seek work elsewhere.

They were followed closely by travellers from the US – while the nation still holds substantial reserves of natural resources, the Australian government has been focusing its efforts on promoting the value of living and working  ‘down-under’ for a number of months now.
With the average annual salary for skilled construction workers on the projects being in excess of $124,000 – and mine workers nearly $132,000 – it is little wonder that international workers are seriously considering their immigration visa options.

However, it falls to the employer to ensure that the application requirements and conditions of employment are met – with serious concerns raised by certain stakeholders.

State secretary for the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s construction division Michael Ravbar explained that migrant workers were vulnerable to exploitation by firms who could attempt to begin “paying lower wages”.

Mr Ravbar asserted: “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.”

Previous communications from the DIAC have shown that the majority of employees are proactive in meeting the requirements that hiring international workers on migration visas brings.

In cases where there were discrepancies between what a foreign worker was owed and what they received in terms of wages or conditions, investigators found that these were quite often simple misunderstandings that were easily rectified.

It was only in a few cases that employees were found to have been deliberately taken advantage of.

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