457 Billboard Campaign Highlights Union Hype

One of the major Australian trade unions has launched a billboard campaign in Sydney and Melbourne aimed at inflaming voters to put pressure on their local members to curb the number of 457 visas granted. The billboards stating “More Apprenticeships, fewer 457 visas,” are part of the ongoing immigration debate in the lead up to the general election in September.

The unions have shot themselves in the foot with this campaign as some of the comments to the Irish Echo Show.

Alan McGrath from Cork working in Kallgoorlie writes, “If you go onto any mining contruction job, 3/4 of the work force are made up of TA’s, Riggers, Scaffolders, crane drivers and the rest are trades people normally 457’s or kiwi’s. The mentality seems to be why do a 4 year apprenticeship and earn sh*t money, when I can do a one week riggers course and earn the same money as a trades person. The CFMEU and other unions set these rates of pay, so at the end of the day I believe they are at fault for the lack of skilled people in Australia. Who can blame them, if someone told me before doing my apprenticeship that I could earn the same money in a week that I would earn after a 4 year apprenticeship, I know which road I would have went down.”

The CFMEU that Alan mentions is the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union who are responsible for the billboard adds.

Enda McHugh from Carrick on Shannon and working in Perth said, “I was a union member until I got the following text message they obviously didn’t realise I was irish “RALLY Stop cheap overseas labour undercutting our real wages and taking WA jobs. Smash visa rots. Train WA kids. Tues No 29 12pm Perth Esplanade. M Buchan”. I called them up the next day and cancelled my membership. They don’t mind taking our money in dues and aren’t shy about asking for it. They use James Connolly and Ned kelly as their icons. Hypocrites.”

Many Irish workers in Australia agree with Enda, saying that the CMFEU’s campaign is an unfair attack on foreign workers on the 457 scheme, who are working in jobs that companies are unable to fill with Australian citizens.

Dave Higgins, from Midleton but now living in Bondi, New South Waales also commented on the post said, “At the end of the day, it’s up to the employer if he/she wants to sponsor somebody. Not their fault if they can’t get any Australians that are better than us, to do the job. Just saying.”

Irish workers in Australia have also commented on the timing of the campaign especially after budget cuts on training centres which are necessary for the apprenticeships that the CFMEU are promoting but also the upcoming Parliamentary elections this September.

“How can the CFMEU start worrying about apprentices now?” Adrian Gannon, from Galway but now living in Melbourne said, “It would be more in their line to make sure employers are training their apprentices and not using them as cheap labour. Which has actually caused 40% of apprentices in Victoria to quit, before they reach their 2nd year.”

Despite the strong objections to the campaign, the CFMEU look set to continue pressuring the Australian government about reducing Employer Sponsored 457 visas.  The CFMEU plan to spread their campaign through social media sites, and are encouraging members to e-mail their Federal MP and demand that the government use apprentices, instead of 457 visa workers. They have stated that they will run the campaign for the next seven months, which looks to also co-inside with the September, Australian general elections.

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