Unions from the manufacturing, resources, construction, services and transport industries have condemned the Free Trade Agreement with China for failing to protect Australian jobs.
ACTU MEDIA RELEASE, 17 November 2014
Based on the scant detail provided, ACTU President Ged Kearney said the agreement confirms fears the manufacturing industry will be devastated, Australia’s sovereignty will be undermined and jobs lost.
“Chinese companies will be able to invest up to a billion dollars on an Australian project, bring in their own workforce to staff it and import products and materials from China to build it.
“At a time when unemployment is at a 12-year-high of 6.2 per cent – Tony Abbott has just negotiated a deal that allows Chinese workers to be brought in on individual contracts for infrastructure projects of $150 million or more.
“We’re not talking about massive projects – a $150 million project is an office building – an office building that could be built by skilled Australian workers looking for jobs.
“There is absolutely no benefit of foreign investment if both the profits and the jobs for a project simply go to China.”
Ms Kearney said the government is claiming the deal is a win for Australian businesses because Chinese tariffs will be reduced - but China can simply cut tariffs and then manipulate its currency to come out ahead.
“Unions aren’t the only ones with these concerns – even senior Liberal MP Bill Heffernan has spoken out against the deal, asking how we can have a free trade deal with a country that won’t put its currency on the market?”
“The reality is that Australians will pay a very high price for this deal through higher unemployment as Chinese workers are brought in for jobs on infrastructure and resource projects, while our already struggling manufacturing industry will be devastated further.
“The manufacturing industry is already facing an uneven trading environment in which China heavily subsidises many of its industries through currency manipulation, exploitative working conditions and behind the border trade barriers – this deal will make things even worse.
Ms Kearney said unions are also deeply concerned about the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS).
“Companies should not be given so much power over national laws and politics. Our Government must be able to take political decisions without being afraid of a multi-national company taking them to court.”
Unions have written to both major parties and the crossbench urging them to reject any deal that does not protect Australian jobs.
“Unions support a fair, transparent and mutually beneficial trading scheme – but the Abbott Government has failed to strike such a deal with China,” said Ms Kearney.
Signatories to the letter include the ACTU, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, National Union of Workers, Australian Workers Union, Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, United Voice, Transport Workers Union and the Rail Tram and Bus Union.