First protests over number of foreign workers in Australian mining industry

by Ray Clancy on July 4, 2012

in Australia Immigration

Thousands set to protest across the state of Western Australia

The row over the number of foreign workers in Australia being brought in to work in the mining industry is escalating with thousands set to protest about the situation.

Unions in Western Australia are hoping to attract thousands to protests across the state opposing the introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements on mining projects. The EMA is a custom designed, project wide migration arrangement to ensure skill shortages do not create constraints on major projects. The first EMA has been granted to the new iron ore mining Roy Hill project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The protests will be held in Perth, Karratha, and Port Hedland as unions call for the government to put more into training young Australians for mining jobs rather than use skilled overseas workers. But the mining bosses say that training will take too long and anyway young people don’t want to move to the remote areas where the majority of mines are located.

However, Immigration and Citizenship minister Chris Bowen does not agree.

‘The government’s first priority is always ensuring jobs for Australian workers, but there is a need for temporary workers to help keep our economy strong. With more than 8,000 workers required during the construction phase of the Roy Hill project, there simply aren’t enough people in the local workforce to get the job done,’ he said.

However CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor believes that local people would take the jobs if they could.

‘We need to be training our local kids to meet those shortages first and foremost,’ he said.

Since the announcement of EMAs earlier this year the CFMEU has voiced strong opposition to the policy. In a resolution published last month it acknowledged the contribution of migrants to the industry and union but said more effort needed to be made to employ Australians first.

‘The union makes no apology for advocating the principle that employers should be compelled to offer jobs to Australian citizens and residents, and to demonstrate that no qualified Australian workers are available before seeking temporary overseas workers,’ the document said.

Meanwhile, new research from the government shows that women are underrepresented in the high paying construction and mining industries and increasing their involvement is still a big challenge.

The Women in New South Wales 2012 report has found that while gender and wage gaps have narrowed, in male dominated sectors like mining the change has been marginal. In 1996/97 around 6% of NSW women were employed in the mining industry, and in 2011/12 the number was 11%. Out of a total workforce of around 47,000 people, women make up only 1% of construction and mining labourers.

Women hold 10% of jobs in the construction industry and 11% of jobs in the mining sector in New South Wales, as opposed to 78% of jobs in health care and social assistance and 68% in education and training.

Also, a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers said that mining still lags other industries in employing skilled women.

‘Entrenched and outmoded attitudes towards women’s roles and career prospects remain,’ it pointed out.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Trent July 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

Call me crazy, but how about forcing some of the quarter of a million dole receivers to go and work? No more dole payments, they can make real money and actually HELP Australia.

Now living in a country where there is NO WORK and people fight for jobs – The sick joke of Australia's welfare system is truly obvious.

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