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Unionists protest against mining skills shortage in WA
05/07/2012 - More than 3000 unionists have marched on mining magnate Gina Rinehart's office and Parliament House in Western Australia to protest against imported workers and a lack of training in the resources sector. Cortlan Bennett
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Led by the national Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) on Wednesday, the rally began on the steps of parliament before marching through West Perth - the traditional home of WA mining firms - to the office of Rinehart's privately-owned Hancock Prospecting.
There, they protested against the company's plans to import 1700 overseas workers for its fledgling Roy Hill iron ore project in WA's Pilbara under the federal government's enterprise migration agreement scheme.
They also protested over a lack of local apprenticeships and government training, while deriding the so-called skills shortage in the resources industry as self-inflicted.
CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor said for too long governments and industry had ignored the looming skills shortage by not investing in local training.
Resource companies now wanted to take the cheap and easy option of importing workers, he said.
"The community has an unease about what's happening in the mining sector," O'Connor said.
"What today's about is backing up the things that we've been trying to get governments to do for the past 18 months to two years.
"We're going to demonstrate that throughout the country."
The Perth march coincided with another rally in Melbourne on Wednesday and will be followed by other protests around the nation, including the WA Pilbara mining towns of Karratha and Port Hedland over the next two weeks.
O'Connor said the unions were not "racist" in opposing imported workers and did not want to harm the mining industry.
"We're a pro-mining union, so we're not trying to harm the mining sector, we just want to make sure it is developed in a way that maximises jobs and maximises the benefits for the community," he said.
"A recent survey of the public showed that 60 per cent of Australians think that people want to bring in workers from overseas for one reason only, and that's to reduce wages and conditions."
O'Connor said it was "hypocritical" of the WA and federal governments and local industry to be complaining of a skills shortage when they had done little to alleviate it themselves.
"It's very easy to fix this problem if people are working together and want to be practical," he said.
"Just train local workers."
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dave d | 5/07/2012 13:53 1
It's a pity that Ju-Liar wasn't there to support the AMWU protests in Perth against Reinhardt .Instead she was in Darwin handing out a 1000 work permits to Indonesians - Seems the AMWU were protesting in the wrong city -or is it kill the tall poppy Australian while their trusty mate Ju-liar is stabbing them in the back in Darwin giving Australian jobs away there !!
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