Oct 07, 2015
Conflicting outlook for workers in the mining services field AUSTRALIA
3 MIN READ
Conflicting outlook for workers in the mining services field in wake of signing of Trans-Pacific Partnership
Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb announced Australia had signed up to the TPPsay, a broad-base liberalised trade deal between 12 countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, United States, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore and New Zealand.
Industry groups representing mining companies, workers, and the associated services sector have hailed the TPP as a win, saying it will boost exports of goods and services, which will in turn create jobs.
However trade unions have a different view and have criticised Mr Robb and the TPP process as lacking in transparency, saying it is likely to lead to a reduction in workers wages and conditions.
“We can’t enter into a trade agreement where it effectively means we’re in a race to the bottom around wages and conditions,” national secretary for the Australian Manufacturers and Workers Union (AMWU), Paul Bastion said.
“And trade agreements should be about lifting the lot of the people up.”
“We are pro-trade, but the process has to be fair, transparent and openPaul Bastion, national secretary, AMWU
Scott Barklamb, policy director with the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA), said the union movement has got it wrong on wages and conditions.
“The unions are absolutely speculating and inventing things out of thin-air on labour,” he said.
“More jobs, more opportunities, more trade, with expanding markets can only be good, not only for Australian industry, but for working Australians and their standard of living.”
However, neither group can yet say what the TPP will definitively mean for workers and jobs as the Federal Government has not released that information.
Mr Bastion said that is of grave concern to unions, and they are not alone.
“Employer groups like the Australian Industry Group are saying they, too, are concerned.
“We (unions) are pro-trade, but trade has to be fair, transparent and open.
“It is beholden on government to ensure that the public has an opportunity to understand what we’re signing up to, which parts of the economy are going to benefit, and if other parts of the economy will be disadvantaged.”
The CEO of mining equipment, technology and services industry group Austmine, Chris Gibbs-Stewart, said the METS sector will benefit substantially from the TPP.
“Exporting is the life blood of Australian METS,” she said.
“Trade deals such as this will make them more competitive and make it easier for our METS to do business offshore.”
It has been reported in the media that Minister Robb said Australian workers will be protected as International Labour Standards need to be met under the TPP.
Paul Bastion said that is of little comfort given what has happened previously.
“In the past when we’ve been given some undertaking about having chapters in the (trade) agreement around International Labour Organisation core standards, they’ve not been enforceable chapters.
“Meanwhile every other chapter in previous trade agreements are enforceable, but for some reason there is a carve out when it comes to labour standards, that they’re not actually enforceable