Yet another plank in the raft of proposals to weaken unions and emasculate working conditions is the Abbott government’s move to repeal legislation that provides migration zone status to off-shore projects.
It will specifically affect the multi-billion dollar Gorgon LPG project off the coast of Western Australia.
Introducing the Repeal Bill on 27 March, immigration minister Scott Morrison claimed it would remove red tape in the industry. He has the full backing of the Australian Mines and Metals Association.
The original legislation, which was introduced last year and comes into effect on 30 June, sought to clarify that Australian law applies to the off-shore industry. The legislation followed a Federal Court ruling that vessels not attached to Australia’s seabed were exempt from Australian law.
The law gave a measure of protection to workers in the industry in terms of safety, training and contractual arrangements. National secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Paddy Crumlin said at the time that the legislation would allow “employment, safety, training and occupational licensing requirements [to] be brought up to Australian legal and industrial standards”.
With its repeal, employers such as Gorgon’s Chevron will be able to employ people who have little to no training or experience in the off-shore industry.
Although the company will have to comply with international laws and regulations, workers will not be covered by higher Australian standards in a range of areas such as safety and proper training – and of course, they will have no access to unions who can defend their rights.
The new legislation has created an uneven playing field that will only benefit the massive LNG industry and provides another path to super exploit guest workers. It further hampers attempts by the MUA to ensure that its members, highly qualified and trained in the industry, are guaranteed employment.
The Repeal Bill, which has yet to face the Senate, comes at a critical time. Negotiations over the off-shore Enterprise Agreement with the MUA have reached a stalemate. The WA branch of the union has declared its determination to ensure there is permanency in the industry.
The Mines and Metals Association, in welcoming the Liberal government’s decision, is just as determined to see an untrained, unqualified, nonunionised workforce in the off-shore industry. They want to place workers beyond the reach of established protections in order to make billions of dollars more than they already do.