Unions say skills shortage needs argent attention
AM - Tuesday, 15 March , 2005 08:04:00
Reporter: Tony Eastley
TONY EASTLEY: The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) says Australia needs a summit of government, business and unions to discuss the nation's critical shortage of skilled labour.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says the shortage is now so bad it's threatening the economy. She says while the mining industry is in dire straits, the shortages are across the board.
She says for years the Federal Government ignored warnings from business and unions, but now it's time for all parties to come together to find a solution.
I spoke to Sharan Burrow and asked her what she believed the answer might be.
SHARAN BURROW: Well, the solution is quite obvious, really. You need first of all to put money into TAFE right now, to start 20,000 new apprentices. You need to beef up pre-vocational and school-based apprenticeship numbers and we need to get recruiters in there.
We hear all the time, and it's incredibly frustrating, employers say they can't get apprentices and we hear young people say they can't get apprenticeships. Or people who have been made redundant, who are older workers say they'd like to retrain. We know that the match is possible; it just needs attention.
So it's not that there's a lack of people willing to do the work, it's not that there's a lack of need. So let's get our act together, invest in apprenticeships, let's get the recruiters in, and also if we need short term labour, let's be honest about it, let employers sit down with government representatives from the Immigration Department and unions and work out on what basis, but let's put the solutions in so that we don't see business escaping its responsibility for investing in training, or government escaping its major responsibility for training.
TONY EASTLEY: That's in the long term, but in the short term isn't Australia going to need skilled migrants brought in?
SHARAN BURROW: We're prepared to look at a genuine claim from employers for skilled labour. But we want to do it by sitting down, making sure that it's genuine, making sure that employers actually take on apprentices today in some proportionate amount or invest in training so that they don't in fact just say, well, we don't have a responsibility, we're just going to get skilled migrants and move on.
TONY EASTLEY: But you say yourself that it's going to take three to four years to train up these young people. Now, what are you going to do in the meantime?
SHARAN BURROW: Well, in the meantime we have to look at the labour demand, there's no question about that. But we want to do it on the basis that the demand is transparent and that employers and government work with us to get the solutions.
We see in parliament a report today that says there's a million people who want to work. But for some reason they're finding a blockage. We know that there are thousands and thousands of young people who would like apprenticeships. If we are serious about giving people opportunities, then we've got to do both those things.
TONY EASTLEY: So the ACTU's not against bringing in skilled workers?
SHARAN BURROW: The ACTU recognises that where there's a genuine infrastructure bottleneck, then we need to sit down and look at that question, but you simply can't give carte blanche to bringing in workers without a plan to fix the problem. Otherwise you're going to be doing it year after year after year while our young people go without opportunity, or where older workers can't retrain as they'd like to.
TONY EASTLEY: But in the short term that would be a solution that you'd be happy enough with?
SHARAN BURROW: We will look at skilled migration as part of the solution, but we will not accept guest labour. They are two very different issues and there's a human rights question about how long can you ask someone to come and work in another country without their families, without any kind of sense of security?
So of course we'll sit down and talk about all possibilities, but we want to see a skills summit in April, we're prepared to call for that, host it, work with employers. It's time to look at the solutions and they must be holistic solutions that see us prepared to invest as a nation, and that means this budget, it means this year, it means young people getting opportunities right now for a decent future.
TONY EASTLEY: ACTU President Sharan Burrow.
All he's managed to do is sprout his ideological prejudices, while failing to provide a single shred of evidence to support his worthless drivel.
Unions Welcome Signing of James Hardie Asbestos Compensation Deal
01 December 2005
ACTU Secretary, Greg Combet said: The signing of todays agreement gives legal effect to the commitment that James Hardie made in December last year with the signing of the heads of agreement between unions, asbestos groups and James Hardie. Today's agreement balances the need to provide justice and proper compensation for the Australian victims of James Hardie Asbestos products with the need to ensure the company can continue as a commercially successful business. The deal secured an open ended and uncapped funding commitment from James Hardie, which will provide $4.5 billion dollars for asbestos compensation over the next forty plus years. To the best of everyones ability the agreement ensures that the compensation rights of Australian asbestos victims are protected in the event that James Hardie undergoes a further restructuring in the future. Under the agreement directors and officers of James Hardie will be released from action for compensation, but these releases will not affect ASIC from pursuing investigations or possible prosecution. The agreement will also provide funds for asbestos education and medical research. With the signing of todays agreement the ACTU is calling on all unions and others in the community to lift any remaining bans or boycotts of James Hardie products. The ACTU would like to thank the NSW Government, Bernie Banton and Asbestos Groups and all the unions and union members who have worked so hard to achieve justice for James Hardie asbestos victims.