Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen
Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen Inga Williams

CFMEU urges Federal Govt to stop influx of foreign workers

THE building union has called for the government to suspend the use of Enterprise Migration Agreements in the construction industry, but Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen is unlikely to do so.

CFMEU national construction division secretary Dave Noonan on Tuesday called for a suspension of both temporary 457 visas and EMAs in the construction industry.

But a response from Minister Bowen's spokeswoman did not outline whether he would be willing to suspend the visas or not.

The spokeswoman did say that under such agreements foreign workers could only be recruited after genuine efforts were made to recruit Australians, and a "significant investment" must be made in training local workers.

Mr Noonan said recent employment figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other sources showed the downturn in the Australian construction industry was "extremely serious".

He said despite 27,500 workers registered on the Resources Sector Jobs Board, the number of 457 visas issued in the past 12 months rose by 44%, to 11,980 from 8330 in the previous year.

"On top of this, we also know that there are several EMA applications on the Immigration Minister's desk being considered - applications for thousands more overseas workers to come to Australia to work on major projects," Mr Noonan said.

Mr Bowen's spokeswoman said there was just one EMA currently being finalised, for Gina Rinehart's West Australian Roy Hill iron ore project.

"The government's first priority is always ensuring jobs for Australian workers," she said.

"Our EMA policy gets the balance right: providing certainty for major mining projects, while delivering jobs and opportunities for Australians."

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