09 January 2013

Union pushes for Australian permanent resident preference

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The Australian Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has called for the government to prioritise Australian citizens and permanent residents in new legislation designed to consolidate discrimination laws.

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The CFMEU would like Australian employers to be allowed to prioritise citizens and permanent residents over foreign workers in the event redundancies need to be made.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labor government is attempting to reduce five acts concerning employment discrimination into one, single consolidated law; the CFMEU has written to the government to urge them to include stipulations which prioritise Australian permanent residents and citizens should redundancies need to be made.

Australian employers are currently permitted to employ international workers although, according to the government only when suitable labour cannot be found in the domestic labour market. However, the CFMEU has previously accused the construction industry of using foreign workers simply to save money.

Now the union would like safeguards placed into the new legislation to ensure that 457 visa holders are made redundant before Australian citizens and permanent residents.

"Our view is that commonwealth and state anti-discrimination laws should explicitly provide that discrimination by employers in favour of Australian citizens and permanent residents not be prohibited by the consolidation legislation," reads the union's submission.

The CFMEU is one of the largest workers' unions in Australia but their sentiment is not shared by fellow unions; the Australian Mines and Metals Association contend that the CFMEU's proposal goes further than simply ensuring Australian citizens and permanent residents are prioritised for new jobs and that foreign workers are genuinely needed and should therefore be entitled to protection within discrimination laws.

"The Australian mining industry needs a diverse range of employee skills and experience to be internationally competitive," said the Australian Mines and Metals Association's Scott Barklamb.

"Migrant workers play a small but important role in securing future projects and the widespread employment, social and economic opportunities these create for all Australians."

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