CFMEU pushes for employers to fire foreigners first

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union are pushing for miners to be given power to discriminate in favour of Australian workers over temporary and 457 visa workers.

The CFMEU are calling on the government to ensure that Australian workers are protected and temporary workers get the axe first in the case of redundancies, despite the fact it may violate state anti-discrimination laws, according to The Australian.

"Our view is that commonwealth and state anti-discrimination laws should explicitly provide that discrimination by employers in favour of Australian citizens and permanent residents not be prohibited by the consolidation legislation," the union stated in its submission to the government.

The Labor Government is currently reviewing the various anti-discrimination act, with the view to consolidate them into a single act.

The CFMEU have also released the results of a survey which says that 80% of Australians surveyed believe mining companies should hire locals first.

"An overwhelming majority of Australians believe mining companies should be required to prove they have thoroughly explored options to employ Australians before being permitted to import temporary foreign workers, independent national polling shows", the union stated.

It went on to highlight that more than half of those surveyed disapproved of the Enterprise Migration Agreement at Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine, which allows for close to 2000 foreign workers to be brought in, compared to only 14% of those who approved.

CFMEU construction national secretary Dave Noonan said the results demonstrate public opinion.

“Four in five Australians want employers to prove they have looked for local workers before being granted permission to bring over guest labour,”  Noonan said.

“These numbers show us that a significant majority are opposed to the deal granted to Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill and want much stronger controls and regulation on the use of imported labour.

“Ms Rinehart may dream of a ‘Wild North’ in which mining magnates can fly in exploitable temporary foreign workers at will, but the overwhelming majority of Australians are simply not buying it. They want strict controls on EMAs and independent oversight.

Rinehart's Roy Hill EMA plan has previously sparked local worker fury.

Australian Workers' Union national secretary Paul Howes said the deal was a kick in the guts for Australian workers.

"Gina Rinehart has just had her wish for a cheap imported workforce granted," he said.

"I can't get my head around what genius thought this was a good idea

At the time Noonan also said that "it is indeed a historic announcement when a Labor Minister puts the interests of billionaire mining companies ahead of the interests of working Australians and the Australian community at large".

The ACTU has also called for a complete stop to EMAs.

"With some large resource projects being put on hold, there is no case for the mining industry to be crying about labour shortages and seeking to bring in foreign workers," ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said.

It also called for ‘labour market testing’ which would force miners seeking to use temporary 457-visa labour to show that they had made every effort to employ Australian workers including indigenous workers, women, unemployed local jobseekers, recently retrenched workers and older workers.

However the mining industry has reacted angrily to the CFMEU's proposals, labelling them as 'extraordinary' and 'at odds with the values of the Australian community'.

AMMA's Scott Barklamb slammed the scheme, stating that "the Australian mining industry needs a diverse range of employee skills and experience to be internationally competitive".

"Migrant workers play a small but important role in securing future projects and the widespread employment, social and economic opportunities these create for all Australians.

"The industry fundamentally rejects the creation of an underclass of workers based on where people come from."

New Zealand workers would be able to work within Australia as there are no restrictions, a fact which has led to increase in their number, with more paying their way to get on Australian mines.

The new EMAs are only available to projects worth over $2 billion that have a projected workforce over 1500.

Under the new policy migrant workers must earn the same wages and conditions as Australian workers, and the employer is obligated to train at least the same number of Australian employees.

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