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Issue #1584      March 6, 2013

Perth rallies for jobs and local content

On Thursday February 28 the combined blue collar unions (CFMEU, AMWU, CEPU and MUA) rallied and marched in solidarity for jobs and local content in Perth.

Despite there being a lack of big construction jobs in the city, thousands of workers attended the protest in defiance of the individual threatening letters received from Fair Work Australia Special Inspectorate (the former ABCC) under the fascistic repressive laws that restrict the right to organise and collective bargaining in the industry.

Workers are not being hired and can’t get a start in the resource sector unless the applicant is from overseas on 456 or 457 or work holiday visas. The unemployment figures are on the rise due to this rorting of the visa program that claims a shortage of skilled labour.

The reality is that workers are unable to crank a start on those jobs in the resource sector because mining corporations are not prepared to pay union negotiated wages. They prefer to look at cheaper options, rorting the visa program.

For several years now unions and other progressive organisations have lobbied the government to either cease or tighten up the temporary visa program. Up to 200,000 visas have been granted in Australia to the detriment of local labour. It is a race to the bottom as the workers brought in are unaware of their rights and are very often put on lower than market wages.

Another point of contention is that workers on temporary visas wish to be able to bring their families and migrate to Australia given the opportunity but this is denied to them as they are used by unscrupulous employers as a cheap disposable labour force.

These workers often fear for their jobs should they choose to join a union to represent their industrial interests. Those who speak out and join their unions face the sack and deportation.

Australian governments federal and state have allowed this situation to reach a crisis point with only the mining corporations being the beneficiaries.

The rally called for the elimination and regulation of the temporary visa program, for legislation in relation to local content, and more jobs and training and apprenticeships for young people. Currently the mining corporations do not contribute to the training of workers, which will have a big impact on the future of the industry and will eventually lead to the skill shortages that are currently only fictitious.

The Communist Party of Australia supports the demands of the trade union movement and calls on the government to shut the temporary visa program, allowing guest labour only in those cases of genuine shortage of skilled labour. Guest workers must get paid at local union negotiated rates and long-term guest workers must have the right to residency and to be joined by their families.   

Next article – What does it cost to buy a gov’t?

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