Unions attack Labor over China FTA support

Unions have attacked the Labor Party over its support for the free trade agreement with China, saying the amendments the government has made to accommodate the Opposition still leave workers unprotected.

According to the Australian, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, and the ACTU all opposed Labor’s position.

“While we appreciate the efforts of Penny Wong and Bill Shorten to fix a bad deal, the proposed changes simply do not go far enough,’’ ACTU president Ged Kearney said.

“Australian unions will be holding town hall debates with government MPs around the country next week. We urge Bill Shorten and Senator Wong to continue their participation in this debate and hear our communities concerns.’’

To accommodate Labor’s concerns that the original deal would see Australians lose job opportunities, the Government made three amendments – Firstly, to regulate for compulsory labour market testing before jobs can be given to foreign workers; secondly that foreign workers be paid the market rate for all work; and thirdly that such workers must obtain occupational licences within 90 days.

As the ABC reports, the Greens also oppose the agreement.

“Whilst the Labor and Liberal parties will be slapping each other on the back and celebrating this as a political victory for themselves, many Australian workers are likely to feel this is anything but a victory," said Greens Trade spokesperson Senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

“These trade deals are a Trojan horse for Labor market deregulation agendas, and giving special rights to corporations to sue over democratic government decisions."

In contrast, Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox was happy with the deal.

"Amending regulation is the right way to go and we will engage in the consultation process to ensure regulatory burdens are no more onerous than is currently the case,” Willox said in a statement.

"While there is justified caution around the impacts of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement on sectors including in manufacturing, it is a big and important deal for Australia and we just need to get on with it while making sure it is properly maintained and implemented.

"The Government's decision to leave the 457 visa salary threshold (TSMIT) unchanged pending the planned inquiry, makes good sense and Ai Group will present our views during this process.”