Industry hits back at union campaign

A SENIOR resources industry figure has lamented the “shallow and unnecessary demonisation” of the industry by unions, which will rally in Perth today to demand more local jobs on major projects.
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Peter Johnston

Brooke Showers

Australian Mines and Metals Association vice president, Minerals Council of Australia chairman and Minara Resources chief executive officer Peter Johnston said Australia’s reputation and competitiveness were being severely damaged by the unions’ actions.

The comments come following the anticipated protest by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union WA, the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union, the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union WA and the Maritime Union of Australia outside Parliament House in West Perth at midday.

The unions are arguing mining and resource companies aren’t doing enough to train and develop local workers to meet project staffing demands and relying too heavily on foreign workers before identifying opportunities in Australia.

Johnston said the resource sector’s number one challenge, in addition to policies such as the carbon tax and mining tax, was the industrial framework and “1970s unionism” causing Australia to be priced out of the market for future investment opportunities.

“There is no doubt that international competitors are using this period of political and investor uncertainty to grow their business substantially,” Johnson said.

“Australia has historically relied on the use of skilled migrants on national leading infrastructure projects.

“We need to recognise the small but important role these temporary workers play in helping us secure this great investment opportunity and long term permanent positions for Australian people.”

AMMA acting chief executive officer Minna Knight said the presumption that mining employers were not providing training and employment opportunities for Australia was completely wrong and misleading to the public.

“It is a major concern for the industry that the CFMEU has only this week been granted a place on the federal government’s advisory council for skilled migration, despite actively promoting this damaging and misleading rally,” Knight said.

Knight said the enterprise migration agreements and other skilled migration programs were creating Australian jobs, not replacing them.

“There are more than $500 billion worth of projects in Australia’s pipeline and we have two options here,” she said.

“We can implement constructive workforce strategies that ensure we have the arms and legs to build these future projects and retain the long term employment that come with them.

“Or, we can continue to allow trade unions to indulge in divisive and misleading campaigns, designed to alienate the very people that can assist us to get our projects built on time and budget.”

Yesterday, Knight told that Roy Hill had guaranteed 2000 training places and an additional 6300 jobs for Australians, despite its enterprise migration agreement approval for 1175 foreign workers.

“Furthermore, 83 per cent of the $10 billion capital expenditure for the construction of this project will be spent in Australia to support long-term local jobs and industry,” she said.

About 8000 workers are required for the Roy Hill project’s three-year construction phase. The EMA allows Hancock Prospecting to engage foreign workers on temporary visas to fill the skilled requirements not currently available in Australia.