Racist slurs ignore exploitation - Unions WA

Racist slurs ignore exploitation

In an address today at the University of Western Australia for a forum on migration and mobility, Secretary of UnionsWA, Meredith Hammat, responded to recent comments by WA Treasurer Nahan and Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA CEO, Deirdre Wilmott that described union concerns about temporary work visas as “racist”.

Meredith Hammat, Secretary UnionsWA said:

“Where are the criticisms from Treasurer Nahan and employer CEO Wilmott about the shameful exploitation of work visa holders?

“They devalue public understanding of racism while insulting those who really do suffer under discrimination and exploitation.

“It is not racist to want to protect our standards of living - standards that are part of the unique achievements of unions - fair pay, reasonable working hours, safe conditions and protection from unfair dismissal.

“At a time of rising unemployment, the scale of our temporary work migration directly undermines everyone’s rights at work, including migrants.

“Among the workforce of 1.3 million in WA there are today over 100,000 working people with only a temporary migration status. 

“That includes around 20,000 people in WA on 457 visas and around 20,000 student and tourist visa holders lawfully able to work up to 20 hours per week.

“Over 60,000 New Zealanders in WA have no rights as citizens to unemployment benefits.

“Such insecurity of employment leaves all working people vulnerable to employer exploitation.

“A young unemployed school leaver should not have to compete on ‘price’ for a job at 7-Eleven that offers an unlawful pay is half the minimum wage.

“In the legitimate debate about the China Free Trade Agreement, conservative politicians and employers chose to ignore these realities.

“It is perfectly reasonable to require an employer to prove that temporary overseas labour is made available only once a genuine skill shortage is proven.

“Such a market test also helps to protect temporary migrant workers from exploitation. 

“If they are exploited or their job is unsafe, and their skills are genuinely in demand, they at least have some ability to walk away  and find a job with a decent employer without being expelled from Australia.

“Every day unions protect working people from discrimination and exploitation.

“Unions and union members will not be silenced by bully tactics.”

Meredith Hammat is available for comment.


Mike Nahan accuses unions of 'racially tainted' protests against China Free Trade Agreement’, 26/8/15 ABC Online

CCI: unions are destroying jobs’ by Deidre Wilmott, 2/9/15, The West Australian online.

Work migration status


WA population

Primary 457 Visa holders (actual)


Secondary 457 Visa Holders (est.)


Working Holiday visa holders (est.)


Student visa holders (est.)


New Zealanders (income support ineligible, est.)


Total (est.)

118, 581

[1]Subclass 457 quarterly report: quarter ending 31 March 2015’ Department of Immigration and Border Protection Table 1.22 (p. 15) as at 31 March. 2015 f

[2]State and Territory Migration Summary 31 December 2014’ Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  Provide new grant data only for secondary 457 visa holders (p 150), but includes that secondary holders, who are able to work up to 20 hours per week, constitute 44.6% of new 457 grants in WA. This estimate of total is calculated from that figure applied from data on primary holders at Note 1 above.  

[3]Working Holiday Visa Programme visa report’, 31 December 2015, Department of Immigration and Border Protection - national data only are available, this estimate assumes 8% of total for WA.  

[4]Student visa and Temporary Graduate visa programme quarterly report Quarter ending at 31 December 2014’  Department of Immigration and Border Protection, p. 7. National data only is provided and this estimate assume 8% are studying or work (able to do so up to 20 hours per week) in WA. 

[5] New Zealand (subclass 444 visa),623,440 nationally, est for WA assumed to be 8%. Source: Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Australian Government, cited by the ACTU

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