Australian Unions are deeply concerned with aspects of the recently signed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement (yet to be passed by Parliament), with an analysis of the text showing that Australia has negotiated the worst deal on safeguards for local jobs out of any of the 12 countries that are a part of the agreement.
ACTU President Ged Kearney has also written to Trade Minister Andrew Robb, seeking clarification over union concerns the agreement may prohibit labour market testing.
While Australia has agreed to temporary entry for all workers under its 457 visa program, covering 651 occupations, most other countries make much narrower commitments or no commitments at all.
For example, Japan limits entry to someone employed by an overseas company or in an advanced research position, Chile limits its commitments to a business person engaged in a specialised occupation and the US, where the TPP is deeply unpopular on both sides of the Presidential election campaign, makes no commitments on labour mobility whatsoever.
The Government may have signed away its right to require labour market testing of employers seeking to take on temporary overseas workers. While other TPP countries, such as New Zealand and Brunei have explicitly kept such safeguards in place, Australia has reserved no such right, raising serious concerns that it may be prohibited.
The recent China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) generated widespread community concern over similar threats to local jobs, and with the Government's sights now set on the 23-country Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) and a free trade agreement with India, it's starting to look like there is a pattern of apathy from this Government when it comes to protecting Australian jobs.
This indifference can also be seen in Warren Truss's recent green lighting of Alcoa's plan to replace the Australian crew on its ship the MV Portland with low paid imported workers.
The ASU has been alerting members of concerns over trade deals for some years, but with negotiations going on in secret very little concrete information was available to properly assess. As soon at the full text of the TPP and ChAFTA became available, unions were able to reveal in black and white the evidence for what we had feared.
We will continue campaigning strongly to raise awareness and fight the implementation of any trade agreements that undermine Australian jobs.
Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:
"Australia has negotiated the worst deal on safeguards for local jobs out of any of the TPP signatories."
"We've already seen their approach to ChAFTA and yet again it looks like the Coalition Government has made a trade deal that gives away Australian jobs without receiving any real benefit in return."
"Under the TPP, a nurse from Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Chile or Peru could apply for a job here, but an Australian nurse can't apply for an identical job in one of those countries."
"It's highly unfair."
"Minister Robb and Prime Minister Turnbull need to come clean on what they've signed away under this deal."
"With similar trade agreements under negotiation with India and as part of TiSA, the Government needs to guarantee that labour market testing and fair outcomes for Australian workers aren't being signed away."