The federal government has unveiled an historic agreement with mining magnate Gina Rinehart to import overseas workers to fill jobs in her iron ore project in Western Australia.
The enterprise migration agreement (EMA) will be first used at the mining magnate’s $6.5 billion Roy Hill project, allowing Hancock Prospecting to bring in 1700 migrant workers on a temporary basis.
Union leaders today lashed out at the plan saying it is a kick in the guts for Australian employees.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced today the government program to allow enterprise migration agreements (EMA) would help mining companies find enough workers for their developments.
But union leaders, who were attending a government manufacturing taskforce meeting in Canberra, were furious.
Australian Council of Trade Unions leader Dave Oliver said it was “reprehensible” and Australian workers were being overlooked.
“We are calling on the prime minister to immediately intervene to ensure before any workers are being brought in under the 457 visa program that there has been appropriate measures in place to ensure that the local market has been tested,” he told reporters.
Australian Workers’ Union head Paul Howes said it beggared belief that the announcement was made in the wake of recent jobs losses at Qantas and the Norsk Hydro aluminium smelter in NSW.
“On Friday we come to Canberra to meet with the prime minister, the industry minister and the CEOs of the major manufacturing industries to address the 130,000 jobs that have been lost out of manufacturing since 2008,” a clearly angry Mr Howes told reporters.
“And Chris Bowen is announcing that Gina Rinehart gets an early Christmas present.
“I thought we were actually attacking these guys at the moment. Whose side are we on?”
Mr Howes said it was a big win for Ms Rinehart, and the benefits would also be enjoyed by her fellow mining billionaires Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest.
“It’s a massive kick in the guts to those 130,000 workers in the manufacturing industry who have lost their jobs,” he said.
It’s “sheer lunacy”, he added.
The union movement will now pressure Prime Minister Julia Gillard to set up a job register, as promised by Mr Bowen today, and make it mandatory to advertise locally for workers before importing foreign labour.
It is believed the EMA will stipulate a maximum number of positions that can be filled by workers from overseas, who must have experience in their area of trade and English-speaking competencies.
They must also be paid the same rate as Australian workers and operate under the same conditions.
In return, the company must to commit to train a certain number of Australians with a view to their future participation in the resources sector.
Ms Rinehart’s bid to bring in more migrant workers to address labour shortages has been ongoing for some time.
The huge Roy Hill project is situated 277km south of Port Hedland and is a joint venture with South Korean firms STX Corporation and POSCO, and Japan’s Marubeni Corporation.
Skills Australia estimates mining operations will need an additional 89,000 workers in the five years to 2016 to meet expected demand.
The number of short-term resources construction jobs is expected to peak at 49,000 alone in 2014.
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