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.
Foreign workers to fuel mining boom.
May 26, 2012 12:00AM
THE federal government says a plan to allow up to 1715 foreign workers to be brought in for a major mining project makes good economic sense, but unions say Australian workers should be the priority.
The booming Australian mining industry is expected to need at least 90,000 - 150,000 construction workers and 85,000 mine and gas operation workers over the next three years.
To ease the skills shortage, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday announced that the nation's first enterprise migration agreement (EMA) had been reached with Gina Rinehart's $9.5 billion Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia's Pilbara region.
About a dozen resource projects of $2 billion or more are expected to be eligible to use the program, with three projects due to join Roy Hill in using the EMAs in coming months.
Mr Bowen said that with more than 8000 workers needed during the WA project's construction there were not enough people in the local workforce to get the job done.
Under the EMA, Roy Hill will be able to sponsor up to 1715 workers for the three-year construction phase through the 457 visa program if they can't find Australians to fill the positions.
But the deal will also involve up to 2000 training places being made available for Australians.
In a bid to placate angry unions, Mr Bowen said a jobs board would be set up to help Australians gain jobs on major projects.
"(The government) expects that foreign workers are only recruited after genuine efforts to first employ Australians," Mr Bowen said.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the move 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 have been appropriate measures in place to ensure that the local market has been tested," Mr Oliver told reporters in Canberra.
Australian Workers' Union national secretary and ALP powerbroker Paul Howes said it was a "massive kick in the guts" to the 130,000 workers who had lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector since 2008.
The ACTU and AWU will push for mandatory advertising of jobs for local workers before foreign labour could be used.
The Roy Hill project is expected to produce 55 million tonnes of iron ore each year for 20 years from late 2014.
Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said EMAs would deliver broad benefits for the economy.
"By alleviating labour market pressures in the resource sector, they also ease these pressures across the country and into non-resource sectors," Mr Willox said.
The nation needed to focus first on training new workers but a strong skilled migration program was also required, he said.
The government also announced a Significant Investor visa, for people who invest at least $5 million in either state or territory bonds, Australian Security Investment Commission regulated managed funds or direct investment in Australian companies.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the coalition was not opposed to EMAs but wanted to see the detail of the Roy Hill project arrangements.
"The real question is why this government only wants to put in place arrangements that deal with the top end of the resources sector but lets large parts of the resource sector untouched by those types of arrangements," Mr Morrison told reporters.