Why are we employing foreign workers when good old fashion Aussies cannot get work in the resources?

I was shocked when I was listening to the news earlier this week to hear how the resources sector now has approval to source foreign workers as they are having trouble filling jobs. I truly cannot believe this and then hearing on Sky news yesterday evening that it is not just one company but in fact a number of the large players in this industry are all looking to overseas. I asked myself, why?

Having recently been heavily involved in sourcing a role in this sector for my husband, I have firsthand experience. Two years ago we decided that our business on the Gold Coast was not going so well, so we decided it would be a good idea for him to take a role in the resources sector where he could work for maybe three to five years and then we would re-assess our situation. Sounds easy – I mean he is a qualified electrician and has previously worked for large company’s like Neilsons, O’Donnell Griffin, and Kilpatrick Green where many moons ago (15 years) he actually worked on Boondooma Dam, Curragh Mine and Tarong Power Station.

I naturally, working in the industry, told him not to worry – I would have him a job in a week. Well how wrong was I? This is a closed industry and it is not what you know but who you know – and he had been out of the industry in that sector for some time. All up I think that I applied to over 45 jobs and by this I mean not just sending off a quick resume to seek; These were 45 jobs that required anywhere between 5 – 10 page applications. I spoke to everyone I knew and even more so and finally four months later, Bingo! We had an offer. We were one of the lucky ones.

Since then I have heard many stories of this ilk. Some twelve months ago on the Gold Coast there was a Mining Employment Fair where mining companies came to apparently seek out new employees. It cost us to attend but my friend was adamant that we go, so off we went (my friend is a licensed plumber or known as a tubie on site). We got the details from every booth owner and all of them advised to send in his resume – they were all looking for good solid workers especially licensed tradies and to this day he still does not have a role. In fact it is a very sad story – he is absolutely struggling for work on the Gold Coast and this has now cost him his home. He has now decided to pack up his family (his wife and two teenage children) and move to Gladstone is search of opportunity – I do hope something does come his way.

I keep asking myself why can we offer FIFO as an example to New Zealanders and others but not to Queenslanders? I mean, surely it would be cheaper to FIFO a Queenslander to the Pilbara rather than New Zealanders? Looking at the cost – Flying from a regional town to Auckland, then Auckland to Sydney and then Sydney to Karratha? Does that sound cheaper than flying Brisbane to Karratha?

Another small bit of news that came out this week is that an engineering company down south has got into a bit of strife and will need to lay off 2000+ staff – surely there would be some there that would be happy to do a stint in the Pilbara on a FIFO option.

Stats say we cannot fill these positions but I put it out there; ask the people on the ground – I am sure if you put up a booth in the centre of Surfers Paradise tomorrow you would have over 500+ people from qualified tradies to engineers through to labours and cleaners who would be willing and ready to go.

So I leave you with this thought – any Aussie who wants to work in the resources sector should be given that opportunity and only then we should bring in overseas employees. We should be proud to be Australian.

Alicia Sumich – Senior Consultant

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