Union claims locals laid off before FIFO, foreign staff

CONSTRUCTION company Bechtel has rejected union claims local workers are being made redundant ahead of fly-in, fly-out and foreign workers as the LNG projects wind down.

There are 5000 FIFO trade workers left on Curtis Island compared to 2670 local trade workers.

Figures supplied by Bechtel show during the construction of the LNG plants it has employed 26,000 people, with 9000 from the Gladstone area.

That means the ratio of local workers has actually increased from about 30% to more than 50%.

But the ETU says the bleak outlook in the Gladstone job market means Bechtel should be doing more to help local people stay in work.

"Gladstone has a youth unemployment rate over 13% and companies like Bechtel have a responsibility to the community here to look after local workers," a spokesperson for ETU Queensland and Northern Territory said.

The AMWU has also hit out at Bechtel, saying foreign workers brought over from New Zealand and the United Kingdom on 457 visas, under the temporary labour clause of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, should be sent home before locals.

There are just six trade workers left on the project employed as special class welders and pipe fitters.

The EBA clause between the AMWU and Bechtel says temporary foreign labour would be allowed to supplement the workforce only "after extensive sourcing and recruitment efforts demonstrate that there still remains insufficient" Australian workers.

AMWU Gladstone organiser Phil Golby said those jobs could, and should, go to locals.

"I don't dispute those numbers, but it's still six jobs that should be filled by local people, especially with the way the job market is here right now," Mr Golby said.

Bechtel general manager Kevin Berg said throughout the construction period local workers had been kept on longer than non-locals by an average of 19 weeks.

"To date, we have had over 7000 craft redundancies on these projects. We have ensured we complied with the law and retained the right people with the right skills so that we maintained our ability to perform work," Mr Berg said.

Bechtel's numbers:

  • 2670 local workers left compared to 5000 FIFO
  • Local stayed for 63 weeks, 44 weeks for FIFO
  • Only six trade workers on 457 visas left
  • There are 274 international professionals working with Bechtel compared to 878 professional Australian workers
  • More than 200 local apprentices trained

YOUR SAY: What are your thoughts on 457 visas? Let us know by contacting us on 4970 3030 or helen.spelitis@gladstoneobserver.com.au.