The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) called on the CFMEU to be honest about the job impacts of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) , which comes into force today, and other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

Kate Carnell, CEO of ACCI said “CFMEU statements that the exemptions from Labour Market Testing (LMT) contained in the JAEPA would impact on Australian jobs are simply wrong. Such statements not only ignore the evidence that labour market testing does not work in practice, but more importantly, hide the reality that whether it is before or after LMT was introduced in July 2013, trade occupations such as those of interest to CFMEU members are not the main occupations used for 457s.”

In the latest figures for 457 visas issued by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, applications from the construction industry were only eight per cent of total applications in the three months to September 2014. Also, the recent government review into the integrity of 457 visa programme, identified that of the total of 268 occupations, only in 29 occupations do 457 primary visa holders make up three or more per cent of total employment in that occupation and there are no trade occupations amongst these.

“Applications for 457 visas are dominated by the professional occupations, where there is a strong global movement of labour both in and out of Australia.  Free trade and the global movement of labour enables highly skilled Australians to seek opportunities abroad,” Ms Carnell said.

“Every time unions such as the CFMEU raise the issue of 457 visas they should be held to account to provide evidence of any impact on the labour force in their industry. Certainly, in almost all cases, it is less than one per cent of the total labour pool for construction trade workers whose skills are keenly sought after in the market place. In licensed trades such as electrical and plumbing the number of 457 visa holders are so small as to be a drop in the pool of skilled labour.”

“Freeing up the movement of certain skilled professionals between Australia and Japan helps to encourage business growth both in Japan and Australia and that will deliver MORE jobs  – not less” Ms Carnell said.