Unions to tell MPs of China trade worries

Unions will get two chances to convince federal MPs the trade deal with China is a bad deal for workers.


The Electrical Trades Union and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union will give evidence to parliamentary hearings into the trade agreement this week.

The pair of unions have led an advertising and phone campaign against the deal in recent weeks, which the government has labelled a “racist dog whistle”.

Unions claim the deal will allow companies to employ unlimited numbers of Chinese workers on 457 visas without first establishing whether Australians are available.

The ETU claims this could create “a new class of immigrant working poor”.

“Jobless tradespeople will take little consolation in the knowledge economic and labour modelling indicates there will be opportunities in the wine export business in eight years time,” its submission to the inquiry states.

However it and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union do acknowledge the importance of the trade relationship with China.

The ETU is also worried about removal of requirements for skills testing for a range of trades, including electricians and mechanics.

The lack of industry consultation around that decision has also upset the National Electrical and Communications Association, which will also appear at Thursday’s hearing in Melbourne.

But it’s not just unions who have concerns about the deal.

Flooring manufacturer Armstrong will ask the committee to recommend removal of tariffs be phased in over five years instead of happening all in one hit.

It has concerns about staying competitive if cheap flooring products can be imported from China.

“Manufacturing in Australia becomes increasingly difficult with proposals like these,” Armstrong manager Michael Keam told the treaties committee.

“The imbalance in the proposed agreement places manufacturers like Armstrong at a distinct disadvantage.”

The committee will also hear from livestock and wool exporters, who are thrilled about the prospect of a growing Chinese market once tariffs are removed.

Public hearings will be held in Perth on Tuesday, Tasmania on Thursday and Melbourne on Friday.