Even more evidence that activity in the construction industry is on the rise, is the fact that our borders have been opened to foreign workers to fill skill shortages in the industry in regional areas.
The new program allows foreign workers to fill these regional skill shortages which the government says will boost rather than take away jobs from Australians.
According to immigration minister Michaelia Cash we shouldn’t look at it as jobs being taken away from Australians but rather facilitating better job creation which will actually benefit Aussies. Cash says that if companies cannot access skilled labour, they aren’t going to be able to do this.
Minister Cash was recently quoted in an article on Sourceable.net. The minister said in a statement on Friday,
“Targeted skilled migration under DAMA (Designated Area Migration Agreements) guidelines will provide incentives to grow business and local economies for the benefit of Australians,”
The DAMA initiative was launched under the former regime – the Labor government. The guidelines of the program will now be finalised after consultation with state and territory governments, companies and workers’ unions.
The program starts with companies in the Northern Territory giving them the go ahead to seek foreign skilled or semi-skilled labourers provided that they have not been able to fill the skills gap with suitably qualified Australians and have being trying to do so for the previous six months unsuccessfully.
Cash also explained that this was not an opportunity to exploit foreign labourers. These workers will have to be paid the equivalent or a comparable salary to that of skilled Australian workers. The guidelines do allow for a slight drop in the salary as Cash explained,
Guidelines permit a 10 per cent discount on the minimum $53,900 salary payable to overseas workers on 457 visas. Senator Cash said that still meant DAMA workers would be paid above award rates.
Despite the government’s insistence that the program will boost Australian jobs rather than steal them, the program has been met with a lot of opposition.
The Labor as well as the unions aren’t in favour of the program with Opposition leader Bill Shorten saying that priority should be given to Aussies in regional areas rather than bring in cheaper foreign labour. Shorten was quoted as saying,
“The government needs to explain why it would exploit underpaid labour .. from overseas in preference to finding jobs for unemployed Australians,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“There is no place in Australia for exploiting guest workers from overseas to work alongside Australian workers, doing the same work for lower rates of pay,” he said.
The unions also aren’t sure about the program with the country’s largest construction union, The CFMEU saying that this program would undercut the local labour market and would be exploited by employers. The union’s national secretary Michael O’Connor stated:
“It will mean less work for young Australians looking for a start in industry at a time when apprenticeship levels in construction and mining are at record lows,” CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said in a statement.
Another union, the Maritime Union of Australia through its national secretary Paddy Crumlin said that the government’s program in response to a 12 year high in unemployment was a “disgrace”.
Despite the government’s plan to bring in foreign labour for regional skills shortages, the nationally recognised white card is another tool to ensuring that regional jobs get filled. Workers from across Oz, in every state and territory need to be in possession of the white card and because of its national recognition, workers can work on any construction site in the nation, even in regional Oz.