Employment contingency plan causes concern

US energy major Chevron has signed a labour agreement with the Australian Government that will allow it to import foreign workers for its Gorgon LNG project in the event the company cannot source sufficient Australian labour.
Under the agreement, the Government will grant 457 visas for 150 foreign workers.
The visa allows holders to work in the country for up to four years, travel in and out of Australia as they wish, and bring family with them.
Chevron maintains that the visas are simply the “contingency plan” if it cannot secure enough local employees.
However, the agreement has angered Australian Manufacturing Workers Union WA secretary Steve McCartney, who said the skills shortage in Australia was a myth.
Mr McCartney told AAP that the time used to process the visas could be better spent training locals, particularly young people south of Perth, where there was widespread youth unemployment.
“It’s really short-sighted; I’m disappointed in the Government and Chevron,” he said.
“With the amount of projects winding up, and the amount that aren’t going ahead now, we see it’s going to be difficult for them to justify why they need foreign workers.”
A Chevron spokeswoman told ABC News that the company aimed to source all skilled and semi-skilled labour from within Australia, and highlighted the 9000 Australian jobs the Gorgon project had already created.
She also said that the 457 visa workers, should they be recruited, would receive the same rates of pay and benefits as Australian employees in the same roles.
A spokesman for Immigration minister Chris Bowen echoed Chevron’s statement, claiming that the creation of Australian jobs always took precedence. “Our first priority is – and always will be – jobs for Australians,” he said.
“That is why labour agreements require such a high degree of proof from applicants on the immediacy of genuine skills shortages, including evidence of ongoing and genuine efforts to recruit local workers.”
Both Mr Bowen’s spokesman and WA Premier Colin Barnett played down concerns, claiming the 150 workers would be “a very small number” among the 4000 employees currently working on the Gorgon project.

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