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Issue #1542      4 April 2012

CFMEU: Put Australian workers and youth first

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) WA says governments and employers must get serious about putting Australian workers and young people first in line for jobs and training opportunities in WA.

Mick Buchan, WA branch secretary CFMEU (Construction and General) was responding to recent government announcements that make it easier for WA employers to sponsor foreign workers under the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS). In March 2012:

  • The WA state government completely removed the requirement for “labour market testing” whereby employers had to advertise the job for three months before being eligible to sponsor a foreign worker on an RSMS visa.
  • The federal government announced that employers sponsoring foreign workers on RSMS visas would have no obligation whatsoever to train young Australians as apprentices or indeed perform any training, as a condition of using the RSMS visa.

“It is not good enough that Perth and WA employers can now sponsor foreign workers on RSMS visas, without having to first offer the jobs to Australian workers or train any apprentices”, Mr Buchan said. “It is an essential protection for Australian workers that employers should be able to recruit foreign workers on employer-sponsored visas like the RSMS visas, only when no Australian workers are available to do the work”, Mr Buchan said.

“That means having some test of the local labour market first, not necessarily the same test for all types of jobs, but certainly not the “open door” we’ve got now. Australian workers in WA and other states have a right to these jobs, and their rights must be protected”, Mr Buchan said. “Certainly some skills are in short supply in WA, but the total situation is nowhere near as drastic as some are making out – there is certainly no shortage of ‘hype’ about skills shortages.”

The fact is that employers like foreign workers on RSMS visas because they are captive labour – their so-called “permanent” visas can be cancelled if they leave their employer within two years. Busselton Chamber of Commerce CEO Ray McMillan let the cat out of the bag last year when he said:

“Many businesses think migration is too long a process, but what it does is allow employers to secure an employee for a number of years, as a result of the application,” Mr McMillan said.

No training obligation

Mr Buchan said it was astounding that the federal Immigration Minister would not require any training commitment at all from employers granted the privilege of hiring foreign workers on RSMS visas.

“This means that employers who have never trained an Australian apprentice can be rewarded with access to foreign workers on these visas; and that employers can bring in as many foreign workers on RSMS visas as they like, without having to train any Australian apprentices in return”, Mr Buchan pointed out.

“This is crazy and bad policy – it rewards employers who have done nothing for young Australians, and have no intention of doing anything for them.”

The CFMEU WA Branch believes that if the WA government is serious about looking after young Australians searching for apprenticeships in WA, it should be in there lobbying the federal government to reverse its shameful decision and require ALL employers of RSMS visa holders to do their share of training young Australians.  

Next article – Taser death toll mounts

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