In the most significant free trade agreement change since the US FTA in 2004, yesterday the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition reached an agreement about the China FTA. Though this is a good start, and includes welcome improvements to the temporary overseas worker visa scheme, it is only a start and much more needs to be done.
The Government has backed down from its initial position of refusing to acknowledge there were any issues to be addressed. This flies in the face of Andrew Robb’s argument that our union’s concerns were illegitimate and based on racism.
The CFMEU have been campaigning on overseas worker visas for years. We’ve been standing up for local jobs and speaking out against the exploitation of overseas workers. And we will continue to fight for more protections.
It’s this campaign – embraced by workplaces and communities across Australia – that has secured yesterday’s gains. The requirement that there is labour market testing on projects is a significant step towards ensuring that Australian workers have the opportunity to get jobs through investments by Chinese companies. Exploitation of workers will be minimised by paying them EBA rates.
Our campaign on overseas worker visas is similar to the fight for a minimum wage – it won’t be won in days or in weeks, or even months, but it will be won. We are in this for the long haul: we will continue to fight the Coalition when they allow exploitation to happen and we will continue to lobby the Labor Party to do the right thing and bring in more safeguards to protect local jobs.
Thank you for helping us get these wins. Let’s go get some more.
CFMEU National Secretary
P.S. Last week we started discussions with the Maritime Union of Australia to potentially become the strongest union in Australia. To find out more about it, please read our release here.