The Maritime Union of Australia has slammed the Abbott Government's proposal to allow employers to take on foreign workers on wages and conditions below Australian standards.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the proposal, overseen by Assistant Immigration Minister Michaela Cash, was a structural assault on Australian workers and would be fought uncompromisingly by the MUA.
"The government's attack on Australian workers today could not be more fundamental," Mr Crumlin said.
"For an Australian Government to be openly proposing to undermine Australian wages and Australian conditions is stunning - even for Ms Cash and her government.
"That employers should not be able to take on foreign workers on inferior wages and conditions is a core principal of our economy. ‘Out of touch’ barely comes close to summing this proposal up."
Mr Crumlin said the proposal was made even more absurd by its historical timing.
"We have just seen unemployment in this country hit a 12-year high. Our government's response? Shunt employment opportunities to foreign workers on reduced wages and grind the boot into the Australians who are left without jobs. It is a complete disgrace," he said.
“There are massive problems when it comes to indigenous and youth unemployment – there needs to be more training opportunities provided, not an outsourcing of jobs.”
Mr Crumlin noted that migrant workers had an important role to play in the economy.
"Modern Australia has been built on the labor of migrant workers - but these workers were offered the opportunity to participate as Australians, with Australian wages and Australian conditions. That is the fair go unions have fought for, and that is the Australian way of doing things," he said.
"There are alternate global models, of course. Qatar, for example, runs its economy largely off the back of guest workers, with a small ruling class of nationals at the top of the pyramid. But I doubt very much this is the sort of model Australians were looking for when they elected Tony Abbott and his team.
"The government has overstepped the mark by an absurd margin today. It needs to perform a manoeuvre it should be very used to by now and retreat rapidly."
The MUA is currently taking action in the Federal Court against Senator Cash over the Government’s recent move to open the back door to cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector.