Australian mining community outraged by government’s decision to grant first ever right to hire foreign workers

Australia’s decision to grant first ever right to hire foreign workers at the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara on Friday has sparked heated critics by local unions and the mining community.

Shortly after Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, announced Friday it will allow the $9.3 billion Roy Hill iron ore mining project to hire about 1,700 foreign workers, under the first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA), the Australian Workers' Union national secretary, Paul Howes, went public saying the deal was ‘a kick in the guts’ for Aussie workers.

Roy Hill is part owned by the Australia’s richest person and number four on the list of the world of mining's billionaires Gina Rinehart.

"Gina Rinehart has just had her wish for a cheap imported workforce granted," Howes said in a statement.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why this decision has been made in the current environment… a week where hundreds of Australian [Qantas] workers have lost their jobs," he added.

ABC News reports Dave Noonan from the CFMEU, the main trade union in construction, forestry, mining and energy production, said in approving the EMA the Government had put the interests of mining magnates before working Australians.

"It is indeed a historic announcement when a Labour Minister puts the interests of billionaire mining companies ahead of the interests of working Australians and the Australian community at large," he said.

Australian Council of Trade Unions leader, Dave Oliver, no only agreed, but said the agreement was "reprehensible” and shows Rinehart cares only for profits.

"We are calling on the prime minister to immediately intervene to ensure before any workers are being brought in under the 457 visa program that there has been appropriate measures in place to ensure that the local market has been tested," Oliver said in a media release.

On the weekend Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Sky News while there was "some need for foreign labour," she would act to keep Australian mining jobs safe.

Gillard said a jobs board would be created to let Australians know about work in the resources sector.

"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," she said.

What boom?

MINING.com published in January an article about the reasons why, before jumping on the next plane, mining professionals should take the mining jobs boom in Down Under with pinch of salt.