Yarra Trams, the British Invasion and 457 visas

Earlier this week Yarra Trams staff held a rally outside head office to protest the recent sackings of tram drivers, as well as union claims of harsh treatment by management.

'Shadow Minister for Road Safety and the TAC' Luke Donnellan addresses the RTBU rally outside the Yarra Trams office

Organised by the Tram and Bus division of the Victorian Rail Tram and Bus Union, among the signs held up by protestors was one reading “No more 457 Visas” – which confused me a little since it wasn’t the point of the rally.

RTBU Tram and Bus Division secretary Phil Altieri addresses the rally outside the Yarra Trams head office

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has the following to say on the visa:

The Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) allows skilled workers to come to Australia and work for an approved business for up to four years.

You must be sponsored by an approved business. A business can sponsor someone for this visa if they cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work.

Unions have never been happy with the 457 visa program – for many years employers were never required to prove they advertised for a local candidate to fill the position before they turned to imported labour.

As for Yarra Trams, a quick internet search on the company name and “457 visa” turned up a selection of advertisements on job boards in the United Kingdom, such as this one from 2011 looking for a Performance Manager, to be paid $135k to $145k a year.

Yarra Trams looking in the UK for a Performance Manager

And this one from 2012 looking for a Business Unit Manager, on a salary of $120k to $130k a year.

Yarra Trams looking in the UK for a Business Unit Manager

And a current one, where they are looking for a Director of Major Projects – $230K is nice money, assuming you are ready to report directly to the Chief Executive Officer of Yarra Trams.

Yarra Trams job advertisement for UK residents

With all of the above advertisements being for upper level management jobs, at least the union should be relieved that Yarra Trams isn’t importing drivers from overseas on 457 visas – yet!


The railway system of Great Britain is the oldest in the world, having been established by private companies in the early 19th century, nationalised under the banner of British Rail in 1948, and then broken up again by a Conservative government at the tail end of their grand privatisation experiment.

Today the management structure of railways in Britain is labyrinthine and perplexing – a web of infrastructure owners and regulators, franchisors and train operators, train owners and infrastructure maintenance providers.

If you can see the similarities between Britain and the current management mess that rules Melbourne’s public transport system, should shouldn’t be surprised – Jeff Kennett used Britain as a model when privatising our railways during the late 1990s, and the management ranks here have been full of ex-Brits ever since.

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7 Responses to “Yarra Trams, the British Invasion and 457 visas”

  1. Rohan Storey says:

    Ex brits are everywhere now ! Every second expert, public body rep, scientist, or charity spokesperson on TV is British !

    And yes Kennet took inspiration from Thatcher’s privatisation, but even she didnt privatise any city-based public transport, only British Rail. Melbourne I think was and still is the biggest ‘experiment’ in urban transport privatisation. Less money from govt to run it supposedly, but then less money spent by operator on making it better …..

  2. Dark Knight says:

    What is there to say about 457 Visa; they are an avenue of a tax break therefore helping the bottom line and after a couple of years they can be easily replaced as per the contract; unlike employing locally where the organisation has to abide by industrial relations law, offer a chance of re-deployment ect. ect.

    As for the public well it’s just a gamble that these new manager or engineer isn’t just another salesman with grand ideas and deliver nothing but empty promises and only compound the problem for the next person to deal with.

    By the way did you read today’s paper about some conflict of interest within MTM and the proposed high capacity rail project.

    It’s interesting ‘MTM’s profitability has doubled in the four years it has run Melbourne’s rail network. Last year it posted a $39.3 million profit.'(TheAge 2014) I ponder if there is some correlation that most of the senior/middle management at MTM are hired on 457 visas.

  3. Jacob says:

    There should be a clear price different between hiring someone on a 457 Visa and hiring an AUS/NZ citizen.

    The price should be $10,000 per year paid to the government.

    ie, if a company chooses to hire a 457 Visa worker instead of training an Aussie, they should have to pay $10k/year per visa for the privilege.

    “Advertise locally” guidelines are pointless when the bosses are hell-bent on hiring foreigners.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      There is a legitimate need for employers to bring in skilled workers from time to time. A university mate of mine spends his time flying between around the country working on industrial PLC systems, so I can imagine a skill like that isn’t an easy one to find at the drop of a hat – hence the frequent travel.

      The problem is with dodgy employers abusing the scheme just so they can cut costs – a government bond scheme such as what you describe could be one way to stamp it out, while also minimising the administrative costs.

  4. Jacob says:

    Sure, if it is hard to find such a specialised worker, the boss should be prepared to pay $10k pa per 457 Visa to the Government as I described above.

    My system would be so much better than the opaque one we have now which is based on trust rather than a clear and simple $10k pa price difference.

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