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News Media Releases Local industry and unions launch campaign to save WA’s skilled jobs
Local industry and unions launch campaign to save WA’s skilled jobs
Monday, 14 February 2011 14:49
Australia’s peak steel industry group has joined forces with local unions to launch a campaign to save WA’s skilled engineering and fabrication jobs.

The Barnett Government is allowing the State’s big resources projects to send their skilled work offshore.

Many local fabrication businesses are now in danger of closing down, and WA’s engineers have to go overseas if they want to help design the projects.

The Australian Steel Institute (ASI), the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers (APESMA) and UnionsWA have united as the Skilled Work
Alliance.

This is the first time a Peak Industry Group has campaigned side-by-side with unions in WA. This indicates the severity of the threat to local industry and workers.

AMWU State Secretary Steve McCartney said the Barnett Government had set a low bar for the resources industry, with the sending of skilled work offshore now becoming the norm.

“In 2009, Colin Barnett signed an agreement with Oakajee Port and Rail that will see the steel fabrication and engineering for that project done in China,” Mr McCartney said.

“At about the same time, Mr Barnett promised that projects like Gorgon would fill up WA’s workshops for years.

“However, with Chevron following Mr Barnett’s Oakajee lead and sending nearly all of Gorgon’s engineering and fabrication offshore too, it is hard to see how Mr Barnett’s promise is going to be kept.”

ASI State Manager James England said the impact on the local fabrication industry of the big resources projects sending their skilled work offshore was devastating.

“People might be surprised to learn that, despite a large number of huge resources projects being under construction up north, most of our fabrication workshops are almost empty and some businesses are close to collapse,” he said.

“Many of the businesses under threat are family businesses that have been in WA for generations and they simply can’t believe that they are being bypassed for this work.

“Our local fabrication businesses have the capacity and capability to do a lot of the work required, but they are not getting a fair opportunity. As a result, they can’t create the skilled jobs and apprenticeships that should be flowing during this resources construction boom.”

APESMA State President Zaneta Mascarenhas said the off-shoring of engineering work had serious implications for the WA economy.

“With most of the engineering for our major projects now being done overseas, WA engineers have to uproot themselves and their families and go overseas if they want to help design the projects,” she said.

“There is a core engineering capability that is draining because the design of our Australian LNG resources is going overseas. This brain drain leaves our young engineers without senior people to learn from, with this potentially creating a serious long term skills problem across Western Australia’s engineering industry.

“And, if our LNG projects are designed and procured here, our projects are more likely to be built here. Major projects designed overseas are difficult to be fabricated here due to foreign specifications. This makes it hard for local businesses to tender for their work.’

UnionsWA Secretary Simone McGurk said the social impact of the Barnett Government allowing the big mining, oil and gas companies to send their skilled work overseas could last for generations.

“With the Barnett Government allowing the vast majority of the engineering and fabrication work for our major projects to go offshore, the number of young people starting apprenticeships and traineeships has plummeted,” she said.

“At the same time, youth unemployment in the South Western suburbs surrounding the Kwinana strip, where many of our fabrication businesses are located, has almost doubled.

“So, despite the talk of supposed ‘skills shortages’ there are actually plenty of young Western Australians available to work. The problem is that our fabrication businesses are not getting the pipeline of work they need to create the jobs and apprenticeships our young people need to develop their skills.”

“It would be completely unacceptable to most Western Australians that our natural gas and iron ore reserves are being used to create skilled jobs and opportunities for young people in South East Asia, while young people in Perth have trouble getting apprenticeships.”

Mr McCartney said the WA Jobs From WA Resources campaign would seek new laws from the State Government to ensure the work that local industry had the capacity and capability to perform, was done in WA.

“We all understand that our major resources companies comply with the laws of the many countries in which they operate,” he said.

“Other countries like Canada and the United States have successfully demanded skilled work be performed locally before giving approvals to mine or awarding civil contracts.

“What we want is for our State Government to work as hard as governments around the world in getting the best deal for WA from the use of our natural resources.

“We have one shot in the locker – our natural resources are finite and, if we don’t use them to train our kids, then we won’t have a skilled workforce to create new industries and opportunities once the mining boom is over.

“We want WA Jobs From WA Resources – what can be made here, should be made here.”

The WA Jobs From WA Resources campaign will feature television, radio and print advertising, as well as a dedicated campaign website and Facebook page.

The first phase of the campaign will culminate in a joint industry-union community march on Parliament House on 15th March. The rally will see, for the first time in WA, local business owners walk side-by-side up St George’s Tce with local engineers, metal trades people and concerned members of the community.

The rally will be heavily promoted around the State, with a particular focus on the State Government held marginal seats of Riverton, Southern River and Jandakot. Many families in these communities rely on the Kwinana strip to produce skilled jobs and apprenticeships for their kids and have a lot to lose if the Barnett Government doesn’t secure skilled work from our major projects.

For more information, visit www.wajobs.org.au.
 
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