Rinehart’s foreign worker plan sparks local fury

The approval of Gina Rinehart's plan to bring 1,700 foreign workers to the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara has been slammed by unions and the mining community.

According to The West Australian, 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, in a week where hundreds of Australian [Qantas] workers have lost their jobs."

ABC News reports Dave Noonan from the CFMEU said in striking the deal the Government had put the interests of mining magnates before working Australians.

"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," he said.

Adding to the union disquiet, SBS World News reports Australian Council of Trade Unions leader Dave Oliver said the agreement was "reprehensible".

"We are calling on the prime minister to immediately intervene to ensure before any workers are being brought in under the 457 visa program that there has been appropriate measures in place to ensure that the local market has been tested," he said.

But in a rare backing of the Gillard Government, Clive Palmer has voiced support for Rinehart's plan, according to Fairfax Media.

On the weekend Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Sky News while there was "some need for foreign labour" she would act to keep Australian mining jobs safe.

Gillard said a jobs board would be created to let Australians know about work in the resources sector.

"Companies won't be able to bring in foreign workers if there is an Australian ready, able and willing to do the work on the jobs board," she said.

According to The West Australian Gina Rinehart has commited to spending $946.3 million with WA companies in the nine months to March.

A report by Roy Hill Holdings says from July 2011 to March 2012 the development has spent 97 per cent of its budget on WA firms.

AAP reports Special Minister of State Gary Grey said EMAs were necessary to get big projects online while the boom was in full swing.

"If we were to sit back … the risk is that we will miss that market and we will end up in future generations with lots of rocks that no-one wants," he said.

"If we don't get this EMA in place, this project won't get built on time and on budget, and if we don't get it built on time and on budget, we will not bring millions of tonnes of iron ore to market to support our economy."

The Federal Opposition voiced timid support for enterprise migration agreements on the weekend, but said it did not know the details of the current arrangement.

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.

Earlier this year Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said in addition to Gina Rinehart, a number of mining entities had applied for EMAs.

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