Unions march to protest lack of investment in local workers
A FORCE of union officials and fed-up locals marched along Goondoon St on Wednesday, calling on industry to step up investment in the Gladstone community.
The protest came as Gladstone's biggest employer, Bechtel, confirmed it had applied for an enterprise migration agreement, potentially bringing more international workers to Curtis Island.
Gladstone's Marcus Dittman was among the crowd of protesters and said big companies should treat the region as if they were visiting someone's home.
"What I find with mining and industry, they don't have respect," he said. "They wipe the floor with the local community."
Construction union national secretary Dave Noonan said his members were concerned companies were relying too much on international workers on 457 visas.
"We think there ought to be an effort that Australian workers get the first go at these jobs," he said.
Bechtel's Gladstone general manager Kevin Berg said their application was there as a last resort.
"We have no overseas tradespeople working on our projects on 457 visas and we hope to keep it that way," he said.
Mr Berg also hit back at claims locals were not getting jobs.
"Our statistics speak for themselves. Of our current 8600-strong workforce, 51% are locals to Gladstone."
Mr Berg said Bechtel had injected more than $3 billion into the local economy.
Outsourcing work to non-locals is 'killing community'
LOCAL worker John Sophios believes multinational companies cashing in on Gladstone's resources and location are using and abusing Gladstone residents.
Mr Sophios has been a boilermaker for 30 years with a local fabrication workshop.
He's angry that work could be done locally but is imported from overseas.
"There are six workshops in town here that could do a lot of work over there (on Curtis Island)," he said.
"(Instead) they're just about ready to shut their doors because they have no work. This is killing the community."
Mr Sophios said while youth looking to get jobs locally had been shut out, workers from New Zealand were being given adult apprenticeships on the island.
"I've got a young son who just finished an apprenticeship - it's been nearly four months now but he can't get work anywhere. (Employers on Curtis Island), they keep fobbing him off."
Mr Sophios said his company used to do work for big industry, but the work had now dried up.