Friday, 28th of August 2015

 

Issue #1 August

 

TOP STORY

Chinese and skill requirements for 457 visa
 
 

ISSUES OF THIS MONTH

Row breaks out in Australia over skill requirements for 457 visas

 

Workplace Bullying Case Law

 

More overseas students in Australia after two years of decline

 

Australian visas will only be issued electronically from next month

 

Visa holders urged to make sure their visas are valid and up to date

 
 

Row breaks out in Australia over skill requirements for 457 visas

Chinese investment in Australia is regarded as a vital policy for economic growth, but concerns are being raised about the number of visas being granted for Chinese to work on major projects. According to the trade union movement, this means less opportunities for skilled workers in Australia and from other countries. There is also concern about skill levels, qualifications and safety.

It has been revealed that under the recently agreed China Free Trade deal (ChAFTA), major resources projects can be staffed by Chinese workers, such as electricians, who can be granted 457 visas without what used to be a mandatory skills test.

Trade unions are concerned that the agreement takes away employment opportunities for others, erodes industrial safety standards and places unprecedented power in the hands of corporations at the expense of Australian sovereignty.

The Australian government plans to recognise the qualifications of workers from countries like China and India, despite concerns that standards may not be as high as qualifications in Australia and other high standard countries such as the UK.

Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks said his organisation is concerned that in addition to resources, Chinese companies can bring in their own workforce in the food, transport, agriculture, energy, tourism and the environment sectors. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union has also voiced concerns.

Peter Simpson, Queensland state secretary of the ETU, described the deal as an attack on Australian safety standards.

"Mandatory skills testing for workers from China, as well as a number of other countries, is undertaken because their training is deficient when compared to Australian standards," said Simpson. "The majority of their training is classroom based, meaning it is possible that a worker could present all the paperwork to obtain a 457 visa with little practical electrical experience."

However, Trade Minister Andrew Robb said that Australia mutually recognises qualifications, and if there's any concerns the Department of Immigration can check a person, adding that Chinese investors can only bring in a limited number of skilled workers for a limited period of time.

He added that they would have to provide evidence of identity, work history, qualifications, membership of relevant bodies or associations, references, and documents showing English skills.

 
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Workplace Bullying Case Law

Workplace Bullying Case Law

Business owners have long held the view that the anti-bullying legislation has no real "teeth" and investment in legal advice is not cost effective. Although there is still no compensatory element legislated directly for bullying in the workplace, a breach can still lead to orders which can lead to orders to force the development of internal policies and procedures and training as well as the added cost of litigation in the Commission.

In CF & NW v Company A & ED [2015] FWC 5272 (CF & NW v Company A & ED), the Commission found a company to be in breach of the 2014 anti-bullying amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) and ordered that it reform its workplace. This judgement should serve as a notice to Employers to ensure that they have effective policies and procedures when there have been allegations of workplace bullying. It is important to follow these policies and procedures to make it clear that bullying is not tolerated in the workplace and to protect your employee's workplace health and safety.

Workplace Bullying under the FW Act

Section 789FD of the FW Act provides that a worker is bullied at work when an individual or group of individuals behaves unreasonably towards the worker and that behaviour causes a risk to health and safety. Reasonable management action does not constitute bullying.

Under s 789FF, the Commission may make orders it deems appropriate to prevent the worker from being bullied further.

CF & NW v Company A & ED

In this case, two employees of a real estate agency made an application to the Commission under the anti-bullying provisions, alleging that a property manager at the agency had engaged in bullying behaviour, including:

  • Belittling conduct;
  • Swearing, yelling and use of otherwise inappropriate language;
  • Daily interfering and undermining the applicants' work;
  • Physical intimidation and "slamming" of objects on the applicants' desks,
  • Attempts to incite the applicants to victimise other staff members; and
  • Threats of violence.

Informal internal investigations and workplace mediation did not resolve the matter. The Property Manager resigned from her employment, but took up an equivalent position at a related company. She was soon seconded back to the workplace where the bullying was alleged to have occurred.

At the time of the hearing, the applicants were on a leave of absence from the company. They had lodged claims for workers' compensation and were seeking medical treatment.

Ruling

The Commission found that the Employer and the Property Manager were in breach of the workplace bullying provisions under the FW Act, as the Property Manager had engaged in repeated unreasonable conduct that constituted a risk to health and safety.

Given that the Property Manager had so quickly returned to the workplace where she had engaged in bullying behaviour, the Commission ordered that the Property Manager and the applicants work at separate workplaces and avoid coming into contact with each other.

The Commission was also critical of the manner in which the company investigated the matter. Lacking a formal anti-bullying policy, the company's handling of the complaint had been poor and contributed to the feeling of victimisation of the applicants. The Commission ordered the company develop a policy and conduct training to educate staff on acceptable work practices and the harmful impacts of bullying.

Implications for Employers

This case highlights the importance of having proper anti-bullying training and workplace policies to ensure that a positive workplace culture is maintained. It is essential to follow any procedures outlined in your workplace policies and to enforce them. Bullying has serious impacts on employee health and productivity, and may lead to talented workers choosing to pursue their trade elsewhere.

With adequate training and a suitable anti-bullying and grievance procedure policy, you can limit the effects of bullying within your workplace and create a positive and friendly working environment.

NB Lawyers offer a FREE 20 minute legal consultation to all Employers.

NB Lawyers are Employment Law Specialists. If you are interested in learning more about workplace bullying provisions under the FW Act or are looking to implement an anti-bullying policy, please contact Jonathan Mamaril, Principal, on 07 3876 5111 or via email at jonathanm@nb-lawyers.com.au.

Written by
Jonathan Mamaril
Principal & Director, NB Lawyers
07 3876 5111
jonathanm@nb-lawyers.com.au
LAWYERSFOREMPLOYERS.COM.AU

 
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More overseas students in Australia after two years of decline

more overseas students in Australia

More and more students are attracted to study in Australia with the latest available data showing record numbers are enrolled of which 25% are from overseas.

There were 1.37 million full- and part-time students enrolled in 2014. This total figure represents growth of 4.5% on the previous year, and 0.7% above the longer term average of 3.8%. Of the total, 972,336 students are enrolled on a full time basis, up 5.1% from 924,845 in 2013.

The data also shows that the majority, 76% or 734,344, were located across the three states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and they have seen annual growth in overseas full-time students over the past year of 11.4%, 9.1% and 5.9% respectively.

Overall, for the second consecutive year the number of full-time overseas students enrolled at Australian universities has risen, up 7.3%. This follows two years of negative growth, which was partly attributed to highlighted incidents of violence against international students.

However, now a depreciation of the Australian Dollar, increasing confidence in student safety, and the simplification of student visa applications have seen more overseas students deciding to move to Australia.

Over the past 14 years, the proportion of full-time students domiciled outside of Australia has averaged 29.5%, with 2014 seeing that rise to 30.1%. The number of full-time students from outside of Australia has grown by 152% since 2001, from 116,304 students reaching a new peak of 292,654 in 2014

 

Australian visas will only be issued electronically from next month

Australian Visas to be issued electronically

Labels for Australian visas will cease to be issued from the beginning of next month in a move designed to streamline visa processing and encourage digital service use.

According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), the practice of obtaining visa labels often resulted in unnecessary expenses, delays and inconvenience for clients and stakeholders.

'Offering these services digitally is an efficient, economical and sustainable solution. The step is part of a department wide strategy to provide accessible and efficient digital services to clients in line with the Australian government’s digital agenda,' said a DIBP spokesman.

'The department has always been keen to embrace new technologies and already issues and records all visas electronically,' the spokesman added.

The technology now being used provides real time visa information to registered organisations and other appropriate stakeholders as well as visa holders themselves through the free Visa Entitlement Verification Online service or the myVEVO mobile app.

Visa holders can also provide evidence that they have the authority to enter and remain in Australia by simply showing their passport or ImmiCard linked to their electronic visa record through an unique identification number.

So from 1 September, visa holders will no longer be able to request and pay for a visa label and will need to access their visa record through the VEVO system.

The department explained that when an applicant receives their Australian visa they are issued with a visa grant notification letter that explains the conditions of their visa, including period of validity and entry requirements.

'You should retain this for your own reference and you may wish to carry it with you when you travel as it contains important information about your visa. The information contained within the visa grant notification letter will help you to check your visa status online using VEVO,' he added.

Visa holders are also being reminded that any changes can be done via VEVO and a failure to update passport details, for example, could result in delays when travelling to Australia as details can then not be checked online.

 
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Visa holders urged to make sure their visas are valid and up to date

Up to date Australian Visas

The Australian government is continuing to encourage visa holders whose documents are not up to date to seek help from immigration officials so that they can regularise their situation.

The Department of Immigration and Border Control (DIBP) frequently sends officials to areas outside big cities so that visa holders with issues can access the correct advice.

There can be a wide range of reasons why a visa has become invalid, such as forgetting to get a renewal, or not informing the DIBP of a change in circumstances.

Overseas workers can also be given the wrong advice from employers seeking to exploit them and may feel obliged to say nothing for fear of losing their job.

Students and backpackers, whose circumstances can change relating to their education course or their part time jobs, are another group who may not realise they need to keep their visa data up to date.

 
 

We hope that you have found the information in this issue of our newsletter to be enriching and useful. Stay tuned for our next publication and if you would like to talk to us directly, please do not hesitate to email service@noborders-group.com. In addition, if you would like your contact details updated or removed from this distribution list or you know someone who would like to be added, please email us on the same address.

"The only limits to being the person you truly want to be are your own self-limiting beliefs and thoughts. In every moment, you have the power to choose your life"

 
 

No Borders Group

Email: service@noborders-group.com
Phone: (+61) 07 3876 4000

 
 

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