MUA Workers Rally For More Locals On Resource Projects

Thousands of members of the MUA and other unions today flooded the front steps of the West Australian Parliament House in opposition to foreign workers being used on resource projects when there are local workers available, and insufficient industry moves to train and upskill locals.

About 5000 people marched up Hay Street to the West Perth headquarters of Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting in protest of the private company's move to bring 1700 foreign workers onto the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara on an enterprise migration agreement.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman said the rally was not against foreign labour as blanket policy, rather, the unions wanted to see more done to train and employ Australians.

The message has been blasted in WA for several months now through a string of small and larger rallies, which have targeted Chevron's Gorgon gas project and more recently Hancock Prospecting's Roy Hill.

"The union movement - from its inception to this very day has been a multi-cultural organisation," Mr Doleman said.

"If you take the first example of the union struggle being the rebellion in 1884 at the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat, every nationality was there on that picket line.

"If you need a more recent example of the trade union movement at large, in 1949 - four years after the (Second world) war the hydro-electric scheme was built in New South Wales and every nationality in the world worked on that.

"They all worked together in a union, in a union movement that was multi-cultural."

MUA West Australian Branch Secretary Chris Cain renamed Gina Rinehart as Gina No-Heart for the occasion.

"I want to mention Gina No-Heart and I want to mention Chevron," Mr Cain told the crowd.

"And we say to these people - these multi nationals - Woodside, BHP and Chevron - if you're going to work in our country, you're going to pick up our labour."

CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor said: "The reality is that we need migration in this country year in year out and we support it.

"We look after people when they come here - unions are very keen about making sure all workers have their rights protected, including overseas workers.

"But this is about supporting local kids first, looking after people who are unemployed now, trying to make sure the people who have been made redundant get training opportunities and opportunities to work in the mining sector."

Mr O'Connor said the the demonstration, which stopped traffic on Hay Street, one of Perth's major city streets, was designed to send a message to miners and politicians that they had the support of the community.

"People in the community know people that have got the right training, the right work ethic and still can't get a start," he said.

"We've always asked that the process needs to be transparent."

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union WA state secretary Steve McCartney told the crowd more had to be done to train Australia's youth and protect the nation's struggling manufacturing sector.

"There's $220 billion worth of project work yet to go in Western Australia, there's millions of dollars worth of manufacturing work going to India and China and there's thousands of kids on the Kwinana strip who can't get a job," he said.

"At the end of the day it's our gas, it's our rocks and it's our jobs."

Hancock Prospecting had shut the blinds on the front of the unassuming Ventnor Avenue building, while two security guards lined the inside of the main entrance and WA Police had a couple of officers posted outside.

No representatives from the company addressed the crowd.

But last week Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald defended the company's EMA, saying the project would still need more than 6000 Australian workers over its life.

"The fact is that we need to find a lot of Australian labour through ourselves and our contractors because that's the first part of delivering this confidence to our financiers that we can build the project," he said.

"It's a risk management strategy and it's something that we need to do, to put in place, to convince the financiers that we have a total solution, not a part solution."

The unions also called for more transparency over the use of the Federal Government's online Resources Sector Jobs Board, which companies are compelled to list positions on prior to securing an EMA, with some arguing the process was still unfair to local workers.