One of the country’s largest unions has called on employers to solve skill shortages by employing migrant workers, provided that Australians be trained to help fill similar roles.

The resolution was passed by the Australian Workers’ Union national conference in Sydney on Monday.

It will be taken as a formal position to the government’s jobs and skills summit, to be held over two days at Parliament House in September.

While the union said migration was necessary in the immediate term, it believes employers have an obligation to help Australians fill skill shortages.

Under the plan, those employing migrant workers should provide a traineeship or apprenticeship to an Australian in the same role, or contribute to a funding pool to help with training.

The union’s national secretary Daniel Walton said the changes were necessary to prevent a “Saudi-style guest worker economy”.

“It’s in the national interest for Australians to fill Australian jobs. If we agree on that it should follow that employers be made to take real measures to ensure they’re filling the jobs they create with Australians,” he said.

“Employers shirk their responsibility to train Australians, create a skills gap, fill the gap with short term migrants, exacerbate the skills gap further, repeat. It’s human centipede-level genius.”

Under the plan, the union would also call on all new migrant workers to join their relevant union in a bid to crack down on wage theft and exploitation.

The jobs and skills summit is set to bring together more than 100 people to Canberra including unions, businesses, governments and civil society.

It’s expected the goals from the summit will include a better trained workforce, a boost to incomes and living standards, and to create more opportunities for people in more parts of the country.

Mr Walton said more should be done to help fix shortages in Australian workplaces.

“If hiring an Australian isn’t possible today, employers should have to make sure it’s possible tomorrow,” he said.

Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)