Western Australia’s manufacturing workers turned up in droves to a rally last week demanding resource companies employ Australians.
The rally was a backlash against the government’s decision to allow mining magnate Gina Rinehart to employ 1,700 overseas workers on her Roy Hill project.
Hundreds of industry members – lead by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) – gathered in Perth to criticise the decision to import workers, demanding that mining companies commit to hiring and training local workers instead.
The AMWU says subsequent rallies will also be held in Karratha and Port Hedland.
AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney said it was disgraceful that resource companies were allowed to source workers and content from overseas when Western Australia has a world-class manufacturing industry at the ready.
“First they began importing the manufacturing for these mines from overseas, now they want to important the labour as well. How are we supposed to benefit from the boom when governments go weak at the knees when negotiating with large resources companies?” he said.
“It’s time State and Federal governments stood up to these rich resource bosses and compelled them to hire and train Western Australians first.”
McCartney said while the AMWU wasn’t against overseas workers, it wanted to ensure local industry remained the priority when it came to training and employment for resource projects.
“This is about ensuring something is done for the young people across the state who can’t get an apprenticeship or a job, while our resources sector can provide these opportunities,” he said.
“We know bosses would love nothing more than to import a compliant workforce and to drive down wages and conditions by importing workers from developing countries.
“This is why Governments need to fight to ensure that we have first shot at these jobs and that when temporary labour is used that it is linked directly to training and apprenticeships for young West Australians.
“Our commitment is first and foremost to current and future generations in WA. From Port Headland to Perth it was pleasing to see unions working together to fight for local jobs.”
Back in April, industry minister Greg Combet announced that companies performing large mining, construction and infrastructure projects would now have to report to the government every six months what plans they have put in place to use Australian products.
He said private companies that refuse to comply with the new federal government initiative will forfeit access to tariff reductions for using imported products.