In a move which is set to anger miners, ACTU secretary Dave Oliver yesterday reopened the debate on foreign workers being used by major companies and called on the Federal Government to ban the practise, The Australian reported.
"Given that some of the heat is coming out of the mining boom, the government should revisit the reasons for importing guest workers in the first place," Oliver said.
"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."
Official figures on commodity prices and volumes, set to be released today, are expected to reveal a weakening in the boom.
Further adding to concerns about falling prices and higher costs was a report out yesterday by the Minerals Council of Australia calling for temporary skilled migration to remain uncapped as high labour costs were hurting the industry.
Resources minister Martin Ferguson backed warnings about cost pressures, saying "we have to keep the cost of delivering these projects down".
"Our future earnings will not be based on record commodity prices, rather on increased volumes resulting from our being able to deliver projects in a cost-effective manner," he said.
However, Oliver strongly denied the findings as "distortions at best and false at worst".
"The falling productivity in mining has nothing to do with labour law and everything to do with big investments in that industry that are still under construction," he said.
The ACTU wants ‘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.
The office of immigration minister Chris Bowen said the government's first priority was always ensuring jobs for Australian workers and the ACTU's position had been known for some time but stated
"The government has no plans to change the EMA guidelines, as our EMA policy gets the balance right. It provides certainty for the mining sector, while delivering jobs and opportunities for Australians”.
Image: ACTU Website