15/09/2014 - 15:19

Federal court dismisses union visa challenge

15/09/2014 - 15:19


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Resources sector employer representatives have claimed a victory for the offshore industry in a decision by the Federal Court to reject a challenge by two maritime unions to the Commonwealth’s offshore skilled migration visa arrangements.

Federal court dismisses union visa challenge

Resources industry employer group Australian Mines and Metals Association has claimed a victory for the offshore sector of the industry in a decision by the Federal Court to reject a challenge by two maritime unions to the Commonwealth’s offshore skilled migration visa arrangements.

The AMMA said that the Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Maritime Officers' Union legal case against the assistant minister for immigration and border protection was the latest chapter of ongoing attempts by Australia’s maritime unions to gain control over offshore resources work, which historically takes place outside the unions’ traditional coverage.

In a statement, the AMMA said that by targeting the very small proportion of non-Australian skilled workers who provide essential international technical expertise to local projects, the unions’ campaign has directly threatened thousands of Australian jobs created both directly and indirectly through flow-on effects.

The legal battle is around a decision by the past federal Labor government to require workers engaged in offshore resource activities have a permanent visa, a circumstance likely to significantly restrict those non-citizens in the migration zone who would be permitted to carry out such work in addition to Australian citizens.

The new federal government’s attempt to override this with legisaltion was defeated in the Senate, prompting the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Senator Michaelia Cash to issue a determination excepting from the relevant act the whole of the defined content of offshore resources activity, a move the unions sought to oppose via the court action.

The issue is not the only major fight the sector is having with the union movement. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA today hit back at union calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the Gorgon project. The MUA, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union claim that Gorgon's operator Chevron Australia hasn’t complied with an agreement to give job preferences to local workers.

But the Federal Court battle over offshore workers was a more immediate worry for employers as it had the potential to halt existing offshore operations.

“The Federal Court’s decision today is a sensible decision that has restored certainty to a critical part of Australia’s economy,” AMMA CEO Steve Knott said.

“The offshore resource sector uses a very small number of non-Australian specialists, but has created 70,000 jobs in Australia and injected $200 billion into our economy.

“This campaign is simply the maritime unions’ attempt to gain control over areas historically outside their legal reach and create a new source of membership revenue.

“It is well beyond time that some sensibility is restored in this area and Australia’s oil and gas operators can get on with creating jobs and economic value for our country.”

According to the AMMA, a separate challenge by a third maritime union, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, was previously adjourned pending today’s decision. AMMA expects no material difference in the AIMPE’s case or the outcome. 





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