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Mining redundancies: unions target migrants -

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Mining redundancies: unions target migrants

The World Today - Thursday, 18 December , 2008 12:26:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

ELEANOR HALL: As the mining industry sheds more employees, unionists are venting their anger
against the migrant workers in the sector. They're calling for an end to the industry's employment
of migrants on temporary visas and for the Federal Government to consider sending those that are
here home.

But migrant advocates say people on the 457 visas should be treated fairly and equally. And other
industries want the Federal Government to consider loosening the regulations so that migrants can
be employed in other sectors of the economy.

In Brisbane, Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: The union, companies and the Queensland Government are meeting today to discuss the
retrenchment of more than 500 workers in the mining industry.

The mining union's Stuart Vaccaneo wants temporary migrants to be the first to go.

STUART VACCANEO: Of course you have got to question the viability of having people over here on 457
visas when local mine workers are getting thrown out of work.

ANNIE GUEST: He also wants a ban on any new mining operations until things improve and as for the
possibility of any new migrants...

STUART VACCANEO: We also think that the, and this is more a Federal Government matter, we also
think there should be an immediate cease to any applications for 457 visas for the mining industry.

ANNIE GUEST: The Federal Government says it has no intention of ending the temporary skilled
migration visas known as 457s.

But a spokesman for the Immigration Minister Chris Evans says the Government expects employers to
retain locals ahead of foreign workers on the 457 visas.

But the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia says they should be treated fairly
and equally.

The Federation's deputy chairman is Ramdas Sankaran.

RAMDAS SANKARAN: It's not very fair to suddenly decide to terminate you know people who have come
here with two or three or four year contracts and send them back home when in fact they were giving
up their permanent employment from the countries they have come from and at great cost, come here.

I think the other thing we need to remember also is 457 visas are time-bound so you know, it really
is a question of not forever and a day. If things do get worst the people that have temporarily
gained jobs at the cost of Australian workers will soon be back where they came from.

ANNIE GUEST: What would they be thinking now as they face the news of potential job cuts?

RAMDAS SANKARAN: Look, like any worker they'll be thinking in terms of their family commitments and
you know, clearly it has got ramifications.

I mean the scenario that we are seeing here is being played out globally so you know, if they do
lose their jobs and have to go back in a rush, the plans that they had made before they came to
this country is going to be completely worried and to try and make those adjustments is not going
to be easy so they would be just as concerned as the Australian workers currently faced with
unemployment.

ANNIE GUEST: And other industries continue to put their hands up to take on those about to lose
their jobs in the mines.

Neil Duncan runs Western Exporters' abattoir in the southern Queensland town of Charleville.

NEIL DUNCAN: We do certainly have positions here for maintenance staff that we can't find anywhere
else so we would definitely look to try and source any available people on that line.

ANNIE GUEST: He wants the Federal Government to loosen restrictions on the redeployment of people
on 457 visas to industries other than those they were recruited for.

ELEANOR HALL: Annie Guest reporting.