Union slates NT migration proposal as Government ignores Roy Hill visa allegations

Image credit: CFMEU Facebook page

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has slammed the proposed “designated area migration agreement” for the Northern Territory, saying the Government was destroying the job opportunities of locals while allowing the exploitation of overseas workers.

Union slates NT migration proposal
Image credit: CFMEU Facebook page

The Union, which raised serious allegations about 457 Visa abuses at Australia’s biggest mining project, Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill five months ago, has released a statement arguing that the agreement will allow employers easy access to thousands of overseas workers in the expense of the growing local workforce left jobless by the manufacturing crisis that hit the country in recent times.

“With a surge in unemployment rates and a growing crisis in youth unemployment, the proposed deal in the Northern Territory is a kick in the teeth for those fighting for job opportunities for locals,” CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said.

“With the construction boom in the resource sector coming to end we will have thousands of construction workers looking for work. This deal is irresponsible and plain dumb.”

The Union said the Government’s move to lower the bar on language requirement would increase the chances of overseas workers being exploited and seriously compromise safety.

“This Government doesn’t seem to understand but in the industries we cover if workers can’t communicate with each other, workers get killed,” said Mr O’Connor.

CFMEU’s disapproval of the NT deal came as it raised serious concerns of massive exploitation of the 457 Visa scheme, and lack of Government action over allegations in connection with the Roy Hill project.

In March this year, the Union wrote to the Government on behalf of a whistle-blower working on the project, who provided a detailed complaint, alleging that up to 200 white collar 457 Visa workers employed on Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore project were working excessive hours – over 84 hours a week – and were grossly underpaid, with rates of only around $16 an hour.

Around half of the 457 Visa holders were reportedly Korean nationals and most were female workers under the age of 30. The whistle-blower alleged that some were not working in the occupations approved for their visas – a breach of the sponsoring employer’s obligations.

“As recently as last week the Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash advised the union there was still no outcome to its investigation. These serious allegations will only become more difficult to prove as time goes by. The Abbott Government needs to come clean and immediately disclose the progress of its investigation into the Roy Hill claims so the community can have confidence in the operation of the 457 Visa program,” Mr O’Connor said.