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Councils put foreign workers on standby
Old 9th March 2010, 02:14 PM   #1
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Default Councils put foreign workers on standby

Local government has "pre-interviewed" hundreds of foreign workers who could move to Perth to fill any vacancies in the accelerating mining boom.

WA Local Government Association president Bill Mitchell said the agency had done job, credit and police reference checks for a pool of workers from South Africa, England and New Zealand.

The candidates were partly-processed during the last economic boom for future council jobs, including positions in accounting, planning and surveying.

Mr Mitchell complained that the sector had been forced into an expensive international recruitment drive after the State Government and the mining industry poached its workers.

The boom expected next year could potentially create even bigger labour shortages across the State, following predictions that the resources sector would grow faster than it did in 2006 and 2007.

But UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk said she was concerned that a ready and waiting pool of foreign labour would undermine training initiatives within local government.

Ms McGurk feared guidelines restricting the import of foreign workers on subclass 457 visas, including requirements to advertise locally, would not necessarily ensure advancement of existing staff or opportunities for other residents.

WALGA has already used the subclass 457 visa to fill about 50 local government positions with foreign workers.

Mr Mitchell said the pre- interviews had led to a pool of 50 to 150 candidates from each of the three countries.

It comes as the hospitality sector warns of bigger labour shortages than ever before, as its low-skilled workers leave for lucrative jobs on the mines.

Restaurant and Catering Industry Association president Paul Buckman said the exodus had already started and he expected significant shortages by the end of the year.

But the State's ability to deal with booming demand for tradesmen and women has improved slightly, with the Department of Education and Training claiming an 8 per cent increase in apprentices in training, or 19,706 now compared to 18,251 in January 2006.

Labour shortages would also start from a higher base, with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry claiming 5 per cent seasonally adjusted unemployment now, compared to 3.6 per cent in 2006.

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