HSU slams Warrigal plans to employ foreign workers

Union concerns: The HSU is outraged over Warrigal's plans to recruit 50 overseas workers at its aged care facilities over the next three years.

Union concerns: The HSU is outraged over Warrigal's plans to recruit 50 overseas workers at its aged care facilities over the next three years.

Illawarra-based aged care provider Warrigal has been slammed by the Health Services Union over its plans to recruit 50 overseas workers on 457 visas.

HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said Warrigal – which has 10 locations across the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands – had ‘’turned its back on local workers’’ with the decision.

‘’Warrigal has informed the union that it will seek to fill 50 aged care jobs with overseas workers over the next three years,’’ he said.

‘’Recruiting overseas when there is a willing workforce right on your doorstep is not just lazy, it’s a slap in the face for local jobseekers.’’

The 457 visa is the most commonly used program for Australian employers to sponsor overseas workers to work here temporarily.

However Mr Hayes said it was controversial, with claims it had been used by employers to undercut local workers’ wages and exploit foreign workers.

‘’We want to try and break any type of culture where overseas workers are being employed on these restrictive visas, while local people are ready to work,’’ he said.

‘’Our members at Warrigal are very concerned. Many of them are on part-time contracts and would like full-time work, so there can’t be any suggestion that it’s difficult to attract and retain local people to work in aged care.’’

Mr Hayes said Warrigal had been granted $17 million through the Restart NSW Illawarra infrastructure fund to help it build a new retirement village at Shell Cove. 

‘’If the NSW Government is investing in this community, surely it should be insisting that the jobs created go to local workers,’’ he said.

Warrigal CEO Mark Sewell confirmed the organisation was seeking to employ 50 overseas workers, however claimed they were only being considered for its Bundanoon and Goulburn sites to address labour shortages.

‘’Each year we employ in excess of 200 workers, and plan to recruit many more as our services expand,’’ he said. ‘’The application to employ a small number of highly skilled overseas workers in the Southern Highlands has been given careful consideration as part of a range of solutions and was sent to the HSU for comment.’’

Warrigal had ‘’no intention’’ of employing foreign workers in the Illawarra, and was committed to employing and training Australian workers ‘’wherever possible’’.

‘’In response to the HSU’s comment that Warrigal should be employing local workers as part of the government grant of $17 million to construct a residential care home in Shellharbour, this will be the case of course,” Mr Sewell said.

‘’The successful application for Restart Illawarra funds to part-fund these new services was based on Warrigal’s fundamental belief that the Illawarra needs more and more interesting and diverse aged care employment opportunities for people who live in the Illawarra.’’

The HSU added that their documentation from Warrigal only nominated NSW as the location for the overseas jobs, and did not specify Bundanoon and Goulburn in particular.

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