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Issue #1673      February 18, 2015

Union saves hundreds of jobs

The Australian manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has secured hundreds of high-skilled offshore construction jobs on the Inpex gas project off Darwin, as the Abbott government’s maritime visa changes make it far easier for employers to bring in foreign workers.

Offshore contractor Saipem had planned to use the visa change to bring in overseas workers on its pipelaying vessel Castorone, with some on a 56 days on, 28 days off roster on far inferior wages.

The move was made possible after Liberal Assistant Immigration Minister Michaela Cash used a technicality to open up a loophole in Australian immigration requirements for maritime industries.

However, a week-long intensive series of negotiations between the AMWU and Saipem in January yielded a commitment from the company to maintain a 90 percent Australian construction crew on the massive gas project.

Offshore lead organiser Glenn McLaren was joined by WA state secretary Steve McCartney for the talks which took place on the Casterone, which at the time lay off Malaysian waters.

This fight by the AMWU saved over 600 Australian jobs on the largest offshore pipelaying project currently underway in the southern hemisphere. 

Almost 900 kilometres of pipeline will be put on the ocean floor to carry condensate from the Inpex gas field in the Browse Basin to a processing plant near Darwin.

An attempt to extend the rosters was also resisted after consultations between AMWU leadership and hundreds of union members, preserving the standard maritime three-week even time rotation.

“At a time of rising unemployment, this latest move by the Abbott government is a kick in the guts for every Australian worker,” Mr McCartney said. 

“I’m proud we were able to use our leverage as a unionised workforce to keep high skilled jobs right here in Australia and make the company realise it was in its long-term interest to use local labour.

“This is a victory for every Australian who values skilled local jobs and a future for our kids.”

The AMWU win came as the Abbott government seeks to ease restrictions on hiring of 457 Visa workers, plus introduce a “short term mobility visa” which would scrap safeguards such as labour market testing and skill requirements.

Next article – NSW electricity privatisation heading for trouble

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