Blockade at job site over use of foreign labour

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A contractor south-west of Melbourne has flown foreign workers into a construction site via helicopter – the reason, he says, is due to a blockade by unemployed workers.

The unemployed men blockading the Werribee Water Treatment plant have been stationed there for a week, and are protesting against the use of a group of Filipino workers on 457 visas.

The protest is now in its seventh day and is preventing 50 workers from accessing the site normally. Briagolong Engineering told the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) that the foreign workers are providing specialist tank building skills that cannot be found locally. According to the AMWU, the move to source foreign labour was presumptive and unnneccessary.

Protest co-ordinator Nick Donohue said he represents skilled unemployed people who deserve jobs. "It's going to continue. We think that there are some major flaws in the visa process," he said. "They're talking about these specialised skills. What a load of rubbish that is."

For Alan Atchison, a director of Tedra Australia, the head contractor for the project, at this stage, flying workers in is the only way they can get work done.

"We have to get people in there and we certainly didn't want to take a bus through a picket line," he said. “We have sympathy with the people who are trying to find employment but this is not the way to make a job application.”

  • Judy Higgins on 13/02/2013 11:04:58 AM

    Better HR communication processes would certainly solve this conflict, however there is absolutely no doubt that Visa 457's need to be reviewed given the unemployment and underemployment in this country. Often employers are obtaining permission for 457's by stealth and the government needs to review the policies in this matter. Surely qualified Australians have to be given jobs in Australia first. Or have we totally lost the plot?

  • Disgusted on 13/02/2013 2:22:46 PM

    If the AMWU took the time to actually read the agreement that covers the workers they would see the arrangement and realise they are barking up the wrong tree. It's purely a ploy on their part to try and get a foothold into the site and unionise it. Plain and Simple.

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