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New figures destroy Australia’s tradie shortage myth

CFMEU Media Release

Claims Australia is suffering a major shortage of tradespeople have been shot down in a major blow for bosses’ lobbyists trying to exploit and undercut workers.

A CFMEU analysis of Jobs & Skills Australia occupation and internet job advertisements data busts the myth peddled by employer groups that there is a worker shortage which must be addressed through migration.

The vast majority of building and construction-related jobs have an indicative vacancy rate below 1%.

In February, there were just 56 ads for plasters – a profession employing 27,600 people nationally.

There are 30,000 bricklayers and stonemasons employed in Australia, yet only 111 job ads, which indicates a vacancy rate of 0.4%.

Vacancies for plumbers, tilers, fencers, carpenters and joiners, insulation and home improvement installers were all lower than 1%.

CFMEU National Secretary Zach Smith said:

“We have exposed the blatant lie that Australia is suffering from a tradie shortage that must be fixed through migration.

“Master Builders is pushing a pathetic fiction so they can access easily exploitable migrant labour and undercut the wages and conditions construction workers deserve.

“These groups should be absolutely ashamed of pushing complete bullshit that is designed to hurt Australian workers.

“The most in-demand job in the sector is construction managers – not people on the tools building the homes, offices and infrastructure Australia needs.

“The most appalling part is this myth isn’t just being peddled by exploitation-hungry employer associations, it’s also coming from within BuildSkills Australia, which is supposed to be an impartial source of information for the federal government.”

Mr Smith has written to BuildSkills Australia CEO Brett Schimming raising deep concerns with the organisation’s recent submission calling for more trades to be added to the Core Skills Occupation List.

The CFMEU national secretary also raised concerns BuildSkills’ Rob Sobyra’s media commentary backing the position of employer groups.

“Allowing an employee to express their own personal opinion as being reflective of the position of the organisation is totally unacceptable,” Mr Smith wrote.

“If BuildSkills is to have the continued support of the CFMEU then we require you to take urgent action to rectify this unacceptable situation and to inform the foundation members of the action that you are taking.”


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  1. Anon.E. Mouse

    Adding training places to bring more young people into the trades is the most ideal course of action. Local and Australian legislation and codes are a natural part of the training of local tradespeople.
    Keating had a training guarantee levy that saw an increase in well trained tradies and Howard tried to destroy the apprentice training scheme.

  2. Lyndal

    My son, a carpenter, has had a very poor career in construction. The push is for everyone to be a sub-contractor, dipping in and out of often quite short term jobs and then having the work finish without redundancy payment. You have to have your own vehicle, and cover your own workers’ comp etc, super, holiday and sick pay, while being offered a payment that is little more than a wage. Working for a boss, alternatively, is casual and short term as well, while workers are frequently rained off or stood down without pay, due to some delay with supplies.
    No doubt, if you have capital and connections, you can have a prosperous business, but it is a long step for a kid who gets an apprenticeship to any form of job security

  3. Andrew Smith

    Not sure that the views of the CFMEU match the data presented?

    Nonetheless, could be more informative if broken up into individual trades, postcodes and median ages; while permanent population working age is in demographic decline.

  4. Zathras

    Nowadays everyone is expected to be an independent contractor with their own insurances and Superannuation liabilities. That’s one of the things that brought the era of High Schoolers getting casual work retrieving supermarket shopping trolleys to an end.

    Even now independent contracting doesn’t provide any protection. For a while I worked with an independent carpenter who specialised in moulding-out spec built houses but after being ripped off by large building companies for the third time in a row he decided he needed to survive on wages for a while. With major building companies frequently going into voluntary liquidation people in those industries are very vulnerable.

  5. Joanne Maddalena

    Sounds like the corporations are trying to foist the US ideology on Australians.

  6. Pete Petrass

    When you consider how many building companies have gone bust in the past couple of years………..there must be a lot of tradies out there looking for jobs.

  7. Denis Hay

    I remember years ago when the mining industry was moaning they could not find enought staff to fill their vacancies. Yet, I had several clients who had the required qualifications who applied for these jobs, but were declined or did not receive a reply.

  8. Frank Sterle Jr.

    Big Business greed seeks the cheapest labor possible, and migrants are an expedient means to this goal.

    Still, for decades I’ve noticed how the general work ethic practiced by new immigrants and migrants is exceptional, particularly in the produce harvesting sector. It is back-breaking work that almost all second and third (etcetera) generation Westerners won’t tolerate for themselves, myself included.

    I can truly imagine such laborers being fifty to a hundred percent more productive than their born-and-reared-here counterparts.

    I’m not implying that a strong work ethic is a trait racially genetically inherited by one generation from a preceding generation, etcetera. Rather, it’s an admirable culturally determined factor, though also in large part motivated by the said culture’s internal and surrounding economic and political conditions.

    However, I believe that once they’ve resided here for a number of decades, their strong work ethics and higher-than-average productivity, unfortunately, gradually diminishes as these motivated laborers’ descendant generations’ young people become accustomed to the relatively more slackened Western way of life.

    One can already witness this effect in such youth getting caught up in much of our overall urban/suburban liberal culture — e.g. attire, lingo, nightlife, as well as work. And Western ‘values’ assimilation often means the unfortunate acquisition of a distasteful yet strong sense of entitlement.

  9. Frank Sterle Jr.

    [Cont.] Meanwhile, a record number of people have to choose between which necessities of life they can afford: nutritious food or shelter.

    Not surprisingly, there has been a proliferation of over-reliance on food banks. They’re unmet food needs that are exacerbated by unrelenting food-price inflation, all the while giant-grocer corporate profits and payouts to corporate officers correspondingly inflate.

    The more that such corporations make, all the more they want — nay, need — to make next quarterly. It’s never enough. Maximizing profits at the expense of those with so much less, or nothing, will likely always be a significant part of the nature of the big business beast.

    And as the corporate officers shrug their shoulders and say their job is to protect shareholders’ bottom-line interests, the shareholders shrug their shoulders while defensively stating they just collect the dividends and that the big bosses are the ones to make the moral and ethical decisions.

    Yet, the common yet questionable refrain incredibly still prevails amongst supposedly-free-market capitalist nation governments and corporate circles: It claims that best business practices, including what’s best for consumers, are best decided by business decision-makers. But that has been proven deadly false numerous times.

  10. Clakka

    The ’employee’ vs ‘subcontractor’ practice in all levels of construction is a nightmare in full swing. Building construction is subject to the National Construction Code (NCC), which incorporates innumerable Australian Standards. The NCC is mandated in all states via various state Acts, which aren’t fully aligned, but seen as fit for purpose for each state.

    Victoria runs the most stringent regime via the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). It is responsible for devising, approving and monitoring all Builder and Trades registrations (amongst other Built Environment specialists & designers – albeit they are also governed by other Acts and institutes, like Engineers, Architects, Quantity Surveyors, etc). The VBA also inspects and monitors project compliance, in addition to the principal role of building design application and construction compliance via mandated independent Certified Building Surveyors & Inspectors.

    Plumbers/Drainers and Electricians have independent authorities which monitor and ensure compliance which must be certified for each project by the tradesperson carrying out the work.

    Suffice it to say, the VBA struggles, and has been found wanting in monitoring, inspection and ensuring compliance. And there is a substantial shortage of Certified Building Surveyors & Inspectors.

    Th VBA registers those in charge and ultimately responsible (person or corporation) for the building work through to completion (known as ≤i>Registered Building Practitioner). Other than those listed above it does not mandate or monitor the registration of carpenters, other trades or sub-contractors – no-one checks that they have successfully completed a trade apprenticeship or have requisite skills and knowledge. All anyone needs to work on a building site anywhere in Oz, is a ‘White Card’ – a very basic registration where minimal training and testing is done with regard to matters like OHSE and generic site protocols.

    So, unless one’s trade is plumber/drainer or electrician/comms, as an unaffiliated individual or subcontractor you will be at the mercy of the registered builder, and what they specifiy or accept (or not) as passable. So any ‘lay’ person, or anyone that can wield a paint brush or a trowel per se is becoming most common. This creates a substantial risk to consumers and to builders (which of course builders will seek to shed). Unless a project is controlled by an architect or professional project manager, it’s like spinning a roulette wheel.

    So we have to ask, “What is a tradesperson?” (upon whom we can rely)

    I have serious reservations as to the CFMEU’s method, count and conclusion. They have a long history of pushing a politisized ‘closed shop’.

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