Support local workers to rebuild bushfire affected communities

Published: 18 Feb 2020

State and federal governments need to support local workers to rebuild bushfire affected communities rather than rely on cheap and exploitative backpacker labour, warns the CFMEU.

“Changes to visa rules to allow unqualified backpackers to undertake critical remediation and building work in bushfire devastated communities will stymie economic recovery and is a recipe for exploitation and disaster,” said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary.

“The economic blow to the regions has been severe and we need to support local workers and communities in recovery efforts through the months and years ahead.”

“The Morrison government has been slow to come to the party in assisting communities that were hit hard by bushfires and now they want to deprive local workers of the jobs that are the best way to boost their local economies.”

“We know that the building industry is rife with dodgy operators who mercilessly exploit young backpacker workers in unsafe conditions for lower pay.”

“There is a major issue right now with the safe disposal of asbestos and other contaminants across the fire impacted regions. A huge number of the buildings that were lost contained asbestos which will have been rendered extremely friable by the intense heat.”

“Clearing this material safely requires proper training and the right gear. It is not a job for people who have no training and who are dependent upon the good will of their boss, not just for their job, but to stay in the country.”

“Putting untrained, unqualified young workers into hazardous work environments where they are clearing asbestos is unsafe and is a recipe for exploitation.”

“We do not want to see another 'pink bats' style free-for-all where unqualified builders are exposing vulnerable workers to danger and putting the health of local communities at risk.”

“The government should be doing more to support local workers to get back on their feet and begin rebuilding their communities and their livelihoods. Local builders must be supported to do the work wherever possible, thereby ensuring the reconstruction work is a genuine boost to local families and economies.”

“Union members were some of the first on the ground providing recovery assistance to their communities. While the Morrison government dithered, it was workers who gave their all to save their homes, towns and communities.”

“It is shameful for this government that they would turn their backs on these workers and go for the quick-fix cheap option that puts local workers and local economies last.”