Australia: WA Delegates to Keep Up Pressure as Barnett Lets Work Go Offshore

WA Delegates to Keep Up Pressure as Barnett Lets Work Go Offshore

AWMU delegates have vowed to keep up the pressure on the Barnett Government after legislation to guarantee skilled work on lucrative resource projects would remain in Australia was narrowly defeated in the WA Parliament.

Union delegates and members filled the public gallery of the Parliament for the vote on the legislation, introduced by the WA Labor Opposition as a way of stemming the flow of millions of dollars of manufacturing and mining construction contracts heading offshore.

The legislation to require the WA Government to negotiate a skilled work agreement as a condition for companies undertaking any electricity or resource project exceeding $200 million was defeated 26-25 when several key independents were absent for the vote.

It required firms proposing projects to detail the skills, level of research and development plus the quantity of fabricated steel needed – and how much of this would be done in WA.

AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney said that $220 billion of project work was still on the drawingboard in WA despite the mining boom slowing, but the state was not seeing sufficient benefit.

“Colin Barnett is the first Premier to make an arrangement with resource companies where he signs off on the deals, which means he has been directly responsible for sending manufacturing offshore,” he said.

Mr McCartney said nearly all of the steel being used in Chevron’s $43 billion Gorgon and $29 billion Wheatstone LNG projects was being fabricated offshore, while the state’s industry continued to struggle and youth unemployment in the industrial zone of Kwinana near Perth was above 20 per cent.

WA Opposition Leader Mark McGowan told Parliament: “Some people would find it paradoxical that at a time of great success in our state’s mining industry, manufacturing and fabrication industries are going bankrupt and laying off staff and apprentices.”

Boilermaker George O’Neill, among AMWU delegates who saw the vote, said it was frustrating when companies like his employer Heat Exchangers Australia had to repair shoddy fabrication work from South East Asia.

“Woodside had to send two large flare stacks for Gorgon to Perth to be fixed, but we wonder why we weren’t given the work so it would have been done properly in the first place. This work should be done here,” he said.

Finance Minister Simon O’Brien has said more than $25 billion in contracts had been awarded to local firms so far, but the AMWU has challenged him to give a break down of what proportion of that work was actually being done locally and how much has leaked offshore.

He has also failed to respond to a challenge from Mr McCartney to detail the proportion of the $25 billion which has gone into high-value engineering and manufacturing rather than fringe areas such as earthworks and catering.

“While we welcome all work awarded to Western Australia, we shouldn’t be counting work that by its very nature has to be done here as local content,” Mr McCartney said.

Source: AMWU, November 02, 2012


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