The federal Labor Party has won significant concessions from the federal government in relation to the proposed China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).
In return for Labour support for the Agreement, the government has agreed to measures designed to provide stronger protections for Australian jobs. These will involve requiring labour market testing before companies operating under the ChAFTA can import workers into Australia, use of enterprise agreements as a reference point for 457 visa workers' salaries and a 90-day deadline on obtaining occupational or trades licences.
The new requirements will be introduced via changes to migration regulations rather than through changes to the ChAFTA itself.
Australian unions have campaigned strongly against aspects of the trade deal which would have exempted certain employers wanting to bring workers into Australia from first proving they couldn’t find people in Australia to do the job.
Unions have also opposed provisions that would have exempted such workers from Australian licensing standards (e.g. for electrical work).
Responding to the deal, ACTU President Ged Kearney said that despite the measures negotiated by Labor, union concerns continued.
"There are still major gaps for us with the China free trade agreement and we don't think these amendments to the migration bill will fix all of the problems," she said.
As an example she pointed to the fact that workers would still be able to enter Australia and work for up to 90 days without having to meet Australian licensing standards. A further concern is the capacity of the Department of Immigration to actually enforce the licensing requirements.
CEPU National Secretary, Alan Hicks said that the new protections were “better than nothing, but only just”.