Debate continues over how guest workers and those on 457 visas should be treated. The WA branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) passed a resolution at its July state conference that recommends avoiding falling into the federal government and bosses' divide-and-rule trap.
In its resolution, the MUA noted that while historically migrant workers have "contributed greatly to all aspects of life in Australia", the Howard government and employers are using 457 visas "to create a super exploited or second class of worker in this country". This, coupled with the anti-worker Work Choices, allows them the opportunity to further drive down wages and conditions of all workers, the resolution notes.
"We don't accept that migrant workers are responsible for this situation. Instead, we put the blame wholly upon the Howard government and its ruthless and racist policies along with the employers who are intent on using them", it continued.
The conference delegates resolved to support the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's call on the WA state government to institute a royal commission into the use of 457 visas, and urge the state government to appeal to the other state governments to do the same.
It also condemned the Howard government for its "willingness to provide a pathway for employers to openly exploit guest workers who come to Australia whilst at the same time undermine Australian workers' pay and conditions". The MUA resolved to work more closely with ethnic and community groups to support and defend the rights of workers on 457 visas, and called on all unions and all governments to support the campaign to abolish the issuing of these visas.
The MUA further said that the federal government should revise its immigration policy to cater for the shortage of skilled labour, and that immigrants be given full citizenship rights. The union branch has also committed itself to trying to organise all workers, including guest workers.