Australian Unions query plan to import Third world workers from,Vietnam, England, Mexico, Fiji & the USA.
UNIONS are suspicious of plans to allow US construction workers fast-track recognition of their qualifications to work in Australia and meet skills shortages in large mining projects.
The Gillard government yesterday said new rules for temporary migrants would allow Australia to target unemployed skilled workers - especially plumbers and electricians - as the US economy suffers.
An expo is expected to be held in Houston, Texas, in May to showcase job options for US workers in Australia, similar to expos held previously in Ireland and Germany, and US trade workers will have their qualifications certified before migrating.
But unions demanded the government show specific gaps in the market to prove such schemes are not simply a ploy to import cheaper, short-term labour.
"This means there is no way unions, government, or the wider community can be confident that employers have made every effort to provide job and training opportunities to Australians before resorting to the use of overseas labour - whether from the US or any other country,'' ACTU President, Ged Kearney, said.
The Greens also called on the government to train local workers or find better jobs for migrants already in Australia.
''We have many people in Australia with great skills, especially those who have come from places like Africa or Vietnam, yet they're having trouble finding meaningful work,'' said Greens MP Adam Bandt.
The Science and Skills Minister, Chris Evans, and the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, announced the changes yesterday alongside US ambassador to Australia, Jeff Bleich.
Senator Evans said a ''spike'' was expected in the construction workforce in Australia over the next three years, from 35,000 workers presently to as many as 75,000 by 2015.
He said the government was committed to training more Australians, but growing demands would put a strain on building mines, railways and ports and unemployed workers in the US could help meet the shortfall.
The workers could not be used to undercut Australian wages and conditions because they would be subject to the same industrial relations rules as domestic workers.
Mr Bowen said market demands would determine the number of US workers coming to Australia.
The government denied the new rules to open job prospects to US workers was discriminatory, saying labourers from the Philippines and India could also apply.
China last year complained about ''infrastructure bottleneck and shortage of skilled labour'' in Australia and offered to bring Chinese workers to Australia to meet the shortfall.
Mr Bleich said with 8.3 per cent unemployment in the US there were many highly skilled Americans looking to contribute - including military veterans who had experience working in isolated conditions.
Employer groups from Australia and the US backed the deal, saying there was real potential for skilled US workers to temporarily fill skills gaps in Australia.
In a joint statement, bodies including the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia, said the workers were sorely needed.
''In contrast to the surplus of skilled workers in the US, Australia has intensifying skill shortages and comparatively low unemployment,'' the statement said.
''For example, 75 per cent of construction companies recently surveyed in Australia expect they will have major difficulty hiring skilled labour over the next six months.