22 Apr 2008

Australian union favours labour access scheme for Pacific islanders

1:31 pm on 22 April 2008

An Australian trade union has thrown its support behind calls for a new visa scheme allowing Pacific islanders to do seasonal work in Australia.

Unions have traditionally been opposed to the idea, but the Australian Workers Union's national secretary, Paul Howes, says his union had had a change of heart.

Mr Howes says there is a crippling labour shortage in some areas of the economy and the AWU did not want to stand in the way of a solution.

He says the union favours a scheme which would allow seasonal workers to be independent from an employer and that they be paid what an Australian worker in that position would expect.

Mr Howes says it is important that Australia's aid program to the region is more than just sending bucketloads of cash over to those islands.

The government is considering introducing a Pacific guest workers visa scheme after the previous government had been opposed despite pleas from Pacific countries.