TWU criticizes ATA for visa foray

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has been criticized by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) for its call to use the 457 visa scheme to attract foreign truck drivers to the industry.

While the ATA sees the move as a crucial step to address the severe skills shortage in the transport industry, its member organisation has a much different view. TWU’s Acting National Secretary, Michael Kaine, said the ATA’s foray was a “ludicrous proposal” that deliberately ignored the root causes of the crisis.

Kaine was responding to a submission to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), which provides advice to the government on how to tackle skill shortages. The ATA had asked that heavy vehicle driving be added to the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) to allow overseas drivers to apply for a 457 work visa.

“The ATA argues overseas drivers are required because of an inability to find locals to do the work. But recent unemployment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show more than 20,000 jobs lost in transport and logistics. That’s 20,000 people with the skills, experience and willingness to do the job,” he said.

“What they really want is to drive down wages and rates in the industry further and bring in drivers with even less ability to say no to the impossible demands and deadlines from big transport clients…,” Kaine claimed.

“Given the constraints that operators have in sourcing and keeping heavy vehicle drivers in their businesses, it is crucial that the AWPA and the government seriously consider changing the SOL to include heavy vehicle drivers in order for temporary, competent foreign drivers to supplement the Australian workforce,” the ATA said in its submission.

“Current policies, while going some way to address skill shortages, will not meet the predicted freight demand over the long or medium term.”

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