6 May 2008

Australian Workers Union backs labour mobility scheme

9:27 pm on 6 May 2008

The Australian Workers' Union backs a pilot labour mobility scheme offering opportunities to workers in Pacific Island countries.

Australian unions have previously opposed the call for labour mobility, but Paul Howes, the national secretary of the AWU, calls for visionary thinking to reconcile the country's domestic challenges and its regional responsibility.

He backs a scheme that has wide community support; that ensures there is no exploitation of the workers and that employers cannot use it to drive down wages.

Mr Howes says the pilot should include no more than 2000 Pacific workers.

"Run that for a year and see how it goes. In that scheme, we have made it clear that we will only support it if those workers don't earn a dollar less than an Australian worker would earn doing same work; if there is a genuine labour shortage in the areas where the workers are deployed and only if we can ensure that there is no form of indentured slavitude forming in those workplaces where the foreign labour is deployed."

The Rudd Government is presently considering a labour mobility scheme and has studied the New Zealand model.