Rinehart calls for more skilled migrants in mining jobs

Date: Apr 04, 2012

Semi-skilled migrants need to be enticed to Australia to fill the jobs created by the mining boom, Gina Rinehart has suggested - a process that migration lawyers can help with.

Rinehart, who is the richest person in Australia, indicated that an acute labour shortage is threatening major resource projects across the country.

Her comments come as the new Roy Hill Iron Ore project - at which Rinehart is at the helm - is starting negotiations with the government on becoming the first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) in Australia.

EMAs were introduced to address the skill needs of the resources sector, while avoiding constraints on major projects and putting Australian jobs under threat.

Major projects will be able to gain access to overseas labour when positions cannot be filled by the Australian labour market alone.

Although the finer details of Rinehart's EMA application have remained under wraps, the ABC reports that it should bring in around 1,500 semi-skilled migrants.

Such workers are expected to include riggers, bulldozer drivers and scaffolders.

However, the proposals to bring in skilled migrants have not been welcomed by everyone - including the CMFEU union.

National secretary Dave Noonan said that measures need to be taken to ensure Australian workers are benefiting from the mining boom, rather than those on 457 visas.

At present, he argued that the system is not properly monitored to ensure local workers are given priority, meaning employers are not required to train Australian staff.

Mr Noonan said the Australian federal government needs to give priority to Australians when it comes to employing people on resources projects.

He continued: "They need to set up an online jobs board for all Enterprise Migration Agreements, so that Australians know what jobs are available.

"They must also impose a serious training obligation on all companies using 457 visas, to make sure they are also providing apprenticeships to train the next generation of Australian workers."

In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in temporary labour from overseas, but this should not be encouraged when Australian citizens are prepared and able to do the job.

When it comes to laying off staff, Mr Noonan recommended that 457 visa holders should be first in line, otherwise employers could be able to use these visas to reduce wages and working conditions.

For the visa holders themselves, there must be greater awareness of issues such as compensation for anyone who sustains an injury, the union secretary added.