Unemployed metalworkers protest for jobs

February 8, 2013

Unemployed workers staged a protest at a Werribee construction site where they say workers have been brought from overseas on subclass 457 work visas, without advertising the positions locally.
“We've spoken to management on site, they have confirmed there's 457 visa workers here,” protest spokesperson Nick Donohue told Green Left Weekly.
“The 457 workers are welding tanks. We've got an abundance of skilled labour in the area that can do the same job, so there's no necessity for these workers to be brought here,” Donohue said.
“We've put up our hands that we're available for work.
The principal contractor on the project is Tedra, a joint venture between two subsidiaries of Spanish construction multinational ACS Group. The project is a salt reduction plant for recycled water.
Victorian company Briagolong Engineering was named by protesters as the contractor providing labour on site.
“There's a shortage of work in the whole industry in the western suburbs. This trade shortage that you hear about all the time, well I don’t know where it is, it's certainly not in Melbourne. We're all struggling for work.”
Donohue said that the protesters aren't blaming the individual 457 visa workers for the situation.
“We hope the employer treats them with dignity and respect, but we can't understand why they are needed.
“They don't get much of a voice on site, and we're worried they may not be in safe work conditions.
“Worksafe are currently investigating conditions on site and we believe there have been major safety breaches.”
Donohue told Green Left that the protesters aren't against migrant labour, but are against the use of temporary workers on 457 visas.
“The original reasons for 457 visas aren't working and I believe they are being used unlawfully.
“The original purpose was to fill gaps where they couldn't find the right workers, like out the back of Bourke. Not here, halfway between Geelong and Werribee,” Donohue said.
Donohue said the protest was organised at the initiative of the protesters, without union involvement.
“The laws that are put in place are designed to make unions ineffective, so we've taken the matter into our own hands. We've formed the Western District Alliance Group which we're hoping will grow in numbers,” Donohue said.
The group is maintaining their daily protest line at the site, which is at the Geelong Rd exit from the Princes Freeway in Werribee South, on the eastern side of the freeway.

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