English language standards challenged

The battleground in the government’s sc457 review has now become more defined with both unions and industry bodies targeting the English-language standard as the key question the panel must decide on: should the panel recommend that the standard be maintained, or lowered?

The unions want it to be maintained given the current high-employment rates. But industry bodies indicate that due to the unrealistic English-language standards here, unemployment rates will go-up even further should employers be forced to send more jobs offshore in search of skills.

This stark industry warning has been put to the sc457 review panel by the Australian Industry Group (AIG), according to a report in The Australian.

Minimum English-language requirements were introduced in 2007 by the Howard government and raised by the former Labour government a few years later. Unions concerned about losing out jobs to foreign workers maintain that low English-standards threaten local jobs, lead to rorting and exploitation of workers.

Employers however maintain that evidence from their workforce surveys reveal that there is a national skills shortage which can be addressed with the lowering of the language standards to a level that is actually required in the workplace.

The Australian reports that the AIG has made a submission to the independent review panel calling for the English-language requirement to be “significantly” lowered. AIG chief executive Innes Willox told theThe Australian that language requirements are shrinking the pool of people who can apply for the skilled migration program. “This is a particular issue for skilled trades,” the submission says. “Language requirements should be significantly reduced and take into account the fact that many Australian workplaces are multilingual.”

The report states that the AIG’s submission also hits out at Labor’s 457 visa crackdown as rushed and declares that “excessively defensive arguments against the temporary inflow of skilled labour are reminiscent of the arguments made against imported goods and non-British migrants for most of the last century”.

“These attitudes on immigration resonate with these ­discredited protectionist sentiments which have no part in our globalised economy,” it says.

But the ACTU has urged the panel to reject calls to water down the standards. It argues that English-language requirements are critical to ensuring good workplace safety and reducing the potential for exploitation.

Courtesy of Migration Alliance

Administrator’s note:

This is the beginning  of a slippery slope. Vocational English (score of 5 in each module of IELTS)  must be maintained in order for English to remain the language of currency in work-places. I agree that there are work health and safety issues to do with a lowering of this standard and it will be quite likely in workplace employing large numbers of ethnic workers control and safety could be compromised. Worker rights also will be challenged if English as the work-place language is accepted at a lower standard. There is no reason to change the vocation level of English, to suit employers wishing to employ overseas workers.

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