Australian trade unions have urged the Labor government led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to overturn a decision by her immigration minister to allow an iron ore mining project in Western Australia to import 1,700 overseas workers. Most of this crucial resource is expected be exported to the rapidly developing Asian economies like China and India.
Australian Workers Union (AWU) has also called for the sacking of Immigration Minister Chris Owens for allowing Australia's mining magnate Gina Rinehart to bring in overseas workers for $US 9.5 billion Roy Hill project in Western Australia.
The Roy Hill project, it is expected, would take three years to become operative and mine out 55 million of iron ore every year for the next two decades. The project would need 8,500 workers for construction and is likely to be fully operational in 2015.
The project developers hope to recruit 6,700 workers onshore while the remaining 1,700 or so would have to be imported as Australia is reeling under a severe shortage of skilled workers.
The national secretary of AWU Paul Howes has been the most scathing in Chris Bowen's criticism labelling his Friday announcement as a bad news for Australian workers. "Frankly, I just can't get my head around what political genius thought this was a good idea," AWU leader told media outlets.
"Who thought this is a great thing to do today? It is just sheer lunacy. Sheer lunacy," Paul Howes said.
Paul Howes has been joined by Labor Senator, and former union boss, Doug Cameron in trashing the Australian Immigration Minister's decision on importing 1,700 overseas workers for Rinehart's WA project.
"We've got workers being marched off the job in Kurri Kurri, marched off the job by Qantas in Melbourne and Chinese workers marching in Western Australia," Senator Cameron is being quoted by Australian media Saturday.
"I think the politics of this is terrible and I just think we need to have a good look at what's going on," he added.
Chris Bowen is under immense pressure for approving the first ever Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) in favour of Gina Rinehart led Hancock Prospecting to hire overseas staff on the so-called 457 visa.
His discomfort enhanced considerably Saturday morning when Australian media reported about Prime Minister Gillard's ire over Chris Bowen not taking cabinet into confidence over the overseas workers' deal.
The minister has however allayed union fears by stating that no Australian worker will miss out on a job as a result of the government's decision to allow more than 1,700 workers for an iron ore project in Western Australia.
"Companies won't be able to bring in foreign workers if there is an Australian ready, able and willing to do the work on the jobs board," Julia Gillard said in Melbourne Saturday afternoon.
Gina Rinehart, who has been recently labelled as world's richest woman, has strong ties with India as she sold two thermal coal mines and associated rail and port infrastructure in Queensland's largely undeveloped Galilee Basin to India's GVK Reddy Group for $1.26 billion late last year. Gina is also partnering GVK Reddy in the first-phase development of Galilee's coal resources to power India's power plants.
(Paritosh Parasher can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)