Unions oppose China Free Trade Agreement

What is ChAFTA?
The China-Australia free trade agreement is a wide-ranging agreement between Australia and China that was negotiated in secret without public or parliamentary input. It gives Chinese companies preferential treatment in Australia.

Some clauses contained within the agreement are alarming and could seriously undermine the safety and integrity of our trade and rob Australian workers of opportunities. Any claimed benefits are far outweighed by the damage it does to working Australians.

What will it do?

May Day ForumLoss of Jobs
The Abbott government has agreed to let Chinese-backed projects in a range of industries bypass Australian workers entirely. For projects with Chinese backing that spend more than $150 million over the life of the project, jobs can be advertised in China without ever being advertised in Australian first.

The Chinese backing for the projects can be as little 15 percent.

Australian workers could be locked out of jobs for all large-scale projects in infrastructure, energy and resources, construction, tourism and agriculture.

The ABBOTT Government has also agreed that projects over $150 Million are EXCEPT from the FAIR WORK ACT, and Australian A WARDS. So these workers will be exploited further.

Undermining safety standards
In a side deal Trade Minister Andrew Robb has undermined Australian electrical safety standards by removing China from the list of nations for which skills tests are mandatory to obtain a 457 visa. See attached AFR article where Robb denies any of the ChAFT A provisions will have an impact, a case of “Trust us, we’re the Government.” From what we have seen this Agreement will kill Australian jobs, in particular skill jobs such as ours!

Mandatory skills testing for workers from China, as well as a number of other countries, is undertaken because their training is deficient when compared to Australian standards.

Majority of their training is classroom based, and it is possible that a worker could present all the paperwork to obtain a 457 visa without little practical electrical experience at all.

This endangers workers and the general public. Unsafe electrical work can cause fires electrocutions months or years after the work is completed.

There are more than 70,000 industrial deaths in China every year. From the most recent available statistics, there are four times as many deaths in the Chinese gas, electrical and water supply industries as there are in Australia.

We are not talking about keeping people out of Australia, we’re talking about keeping people in Australia safe.

As a union we welcome overseas workers from all over the world who meet the required Australian skills standards.

But we cannot stand by while safeguards for countries with poor safety records are removed. Cutting comers on safety standards ends in disaster. We’ve seen what happens when you relax safety standards recently in the Infinity cables saga, where 4000 kilometres of cabling that did not meet Australian standards was recalled after being installed around Australia.

We say that all migrants coming to Australia do electrical work must be properly assessed, work under supervision, and then take an Australian electrical license test, regardless of their Nationality.

It’s not just unions who else is concerned?

Employer groups, industry bodies and training regulators have all expressed concerns with the either the FTA itself or the dumping of skills assessment. These include Master Electricians, National Electrical Contractors Association, the Fire Prevention Association, the national energy skills training body E-Oz, and the Australian Industry Group.

The Abbott Government has taken this irresponsible step without consulting anyone is now not listening to concerns that are being raised.

All members from Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Ipswich., Toowoomba are urged to make every effort to attend the Brisbane rally and where possible please seek approved time off from your employer.

This attack is the start that could undermine electrical licensing and safety in Australia. Protect your licence, protect your job and attend this important rally.

from ETU Qld Flyer – authorised by P J Simpson, State Secretary


Pushed by unions, Labor threatens China trade deal in Senate

Pressure is building on the Abbott government to tighten the China Australia Free Trade Agreement with the federal Opposition saying the deal does not adequately protect Australian jobs.

As the trade union movement prepares for an assault on the signed agreement at next week’s Labor National Conference, shadow trade minister Penny Wong said it “lacks critical safeguards” and the opposition would seek changes when legislation to enshrine the deal came before Pariament later in 2015

“Labor is committed to maintaining and strengthening safeguards so the FTA’s potential can be fully realised,” she said.

“The agreement (Trade Minister] Andrew Robb brought home from Beijing lacks critical safeguards for Australian jobs. For that reason, Labor is exploring ways to ensure labour market testing and skills assessments occur before foreign workers are granted visas to work in Australia.”

The issue of the trade agreement and foreign labour is set to boil over at the conference, which is Labor’s top decision-making body. Seven trade unions plan to seek a binding commitment that the opposition will run the ruler over the deal and demand changes before voting for it. Mr Robb said the union campaign was a “vile xenophobic scare based on falsehoods”.

The unions include the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Bill Shorten’s former union the Australian Workers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union, the Electrical Trades Union and the Maritime Union of Australia.

In a three-page letter sent to Senator Wong this week, the secretaries of the unions say the ChinaAustralia Free Trade Agreement “includes provisions that make it much worse than the usual FTA”.

“In our view, these provisions – around labour mobility, training, worker protections (or lack thereof), corporate rights and more – make the agreement diametrically opposed to core Labor values and, as such, cannot be supported by the ALP in its current form.” The unions takes particular issue with the Investment Facilitation Agreements, which they say would “allow the importation of entire workforces for investment projects worth at least $150 million, with a Chinese component of as little as $22.5 million, or 15 per cent”.

The letter lists the removal of skills assessment for 10 occupations under the 457 visa program for imported workers, “including for trades that are potentially lethal if practised by workers who do not meet Australia skills standards, such as electricians”.

It lists the removal of labour market testing from the non-concessional 457 visa program for Chinese workers and the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, which give the Chinese the right to legally challenge decisions by the Australian government.

The Labor conference motion seeks to bind Labor to oppose any trade deal that includes the above provisions, creating a potentially awkward situation for the federal Labor Party and a lumpy passage for the legislation through the Senate.

A Greens spokesperson said the party was concerned primarily with the ISDS provision and it agreed the trade deal was “a much more anti-labour movement agreement than any other agreement”.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he harboured concerns about the labour market provisions, as did some other independents.

The legislation for the trade deal will be scrutinised by by two parliamentary committees before being put to a vote in about October.

Mr Robb said the fears were unfounded. He said 457 visa applicants would need “to demonstrate to Immigration that they have the necessary skills and qualifications to work safely in Australia”.

He said with regard to IFAs on projects worth $150 million or more, “proponents must be able to demonstrate to Immigration that a skills shortage is hampering progress on a project in order to bring in skilled workers on a temporary basis”.

“Australian workers will continue to be given first opportunity. Employers will not be permitted to bring in skilled overseas workers on a temporary basis unless there is evidence of genuine labour market need.”

16th July 2015

4 thoughts on “Unions oppose China Free Trade Agreement

  1. Behind the Lines ... says:


    The China-Australia free trade agreement is a wide-ranging agreement between Australia and China that was negotiated by the Australian government in secret without public or parliamentary input.

    The Murdoch Press claim that unions oppose the FTA because of racism, a xenophobic fear of chinese workers taking their jobs. Yet unions represent all cultural backgrounds in a multicultural society. Unions respond that they want good standards for all workers and do not wish other workers to be exploited.

    The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is a misnomer; it is really a restricted trade agreement with specific benefits for particular industries like mining. With Gina Reinhart, Clive Palmer and Twiggy Forest trying hard to exploit aboriginal Australians by stealing their land and exploiting Fly-in-Fly-out (FIFO) workers. Where is the benefit of support coal and iron ore export that ruins the environment and destroys the ground water forever?

    Do mines create jobs?
    Recently Indian corporate giant, Adani, claimed that there are 10,000 new jobs at the Carmichael mine in Central Queensland on Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Land. Sean Ryan (EDO) said at most there would be 1,464 jobs on offer if the Adani project goes ahead.

    Twiggy Forest claimed that his company would create 50,000 new jobs in iron ore in Western Australia for Aboriginal people. This was a saleman’s con to get Aboriginal people to give up more land.

    It gives Chinese companies preferential treatment in Australia.

    Some clauses contained within the agreement are alarming and could seriously undermine the safety and integrity of our trade and rob Australian workers of opportunities.

    Any claimed benefits are far outweighed by the damage it does to working Australians.

    Ian Curr
    28 July 2015

  2. Bob Carnegie says:

    This is an excerpt from a speech given by Bob Carnegie at the Rally to oppose the China Free Trade Agreement. Bob is newly elected MUA State Secretary in Queensland:

    “Are we ready for a fight?

    Well we have got a chance to fight now.

    This government says we are racists because we do not want Chinese workers coming to this country and being exploited and paid a pittance.

    That’s not racism that’s good unionism.

    We are not about workers anywhere being exploited.

    Unions are about picking people up not putting them down.

    These stinking rotten flea-bitten assholes who run this government couldn’t give two stuffs about us.

    But there is a great thing out there it’s called a union card.

    And who has a union card here? (All respond).

    That Union card gives us something that Tony Abbott will never ever understand.

    It gives us solidarity. It gives us Unity. It gives us the power to defeat all who would destroy us.”

    “We have gone through some battles,” Mr Carnegie said.

    “We have seen technology decimate our membership, but still 90 per cent of everything that comes across this country, be it our clothes, our cars, whatever, everything that’s imported comes to our country in a container.

    “And my membership is 100 per cent controlling that import and export and if anybody – any employer – thinks that the Maritime Union of Australia is anything other than shoulder to shoulder with the CFMEU, with the ETU, the plumbers, the metal workers and with any trade union that’s in a struggle, well they’ve got rocks in their stupid, big heads.”

  3. Speeches ... says:

    [soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/129471931" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

  4. Ros McLennan says:

    Ros McLennan Assistant Secretary of the Qld Council of Unions speaking at the rally on Monday, 27 July 2015:

    “Good day everyone. Are you all up with AC-DC? Well I’m not going to sing, but as we were gathering and a ‘Long Way to the Top‘ was playing (on the PA system) I was thinking ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap‘ would have been better at a rally about the China free trade agreement. Right?

    Now we’re here to stand up and fight back against the federal government’s dirty deals over the China free trade agreement.

    They are selling out our jobs. They are condemning are young people to a life of unemployment, where use unemployment is sometimes higher than 22 percent. What about a fair go for a young people?

    Well if it’s got anything to do with the China free trade agreement is not going to happen. They are not for providing safety.

    They are all for exploiting our brothers and sisters overseas. Because Tony Abbott and the federal government don’t care about what’s good for Australia. they don’t care what’s good for working families, they don’t care if workers make it home safe at the end of the day. all they care about is making a buck. Not you making a buck, not you making a buck.

    All they care about is their mates in big multinationals making a buck. now since the federal government announced it was going to sign the China free trade agreement accommodate have been in overdrive saying that free trade is the answer to everything. they say they’re opening Australia 2 business and I say if pigs might fly.

    They can’t be trusted with Medicare, they can’t be trusted with higher education and now we discover that can’t even be trusted to travel like the rest of us. Helicopters anyone?

    And if they can’t be trusted with their own jobs how in hell can we trust them with ours? Well we’re not, we’re going to stand up and fight back.

    Now there are 100 women unionists meeting across the road at the TLC building. Now women are good at everything we can multitask but we can’t be in 2 places at once. The woman across the road is passing a motion in support of our fight and your rally so good luck everyone, good luck brothers and sisters, we’re going to throw out this government and say goodbye to the China free trade agreement.”

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