Croatian workers spark Union anger in Australian city

10 February 2006

A team of Croatian tradesmen brought to Adelaide, Australia to work on short-term contracts has sparked a row over the use of foreign labour in Australia. The 35 workers have been employed by a German company subcontracted by GM Holden to install a new paint line at the car maker's Adelaide assembly operations.

Australian unions fear the men are being exploited by being paid lower wages, and are angry the jobs did not go to local workers in an area of 19 percent unemployment.

Holden headed off possible industrial action by making a commitment at the meeting to "make sure that it doesn't happen again," Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Doug Cameron said. He said the union was first contacted the Croatian workers themselves, who were concerned about the treatment of the tradesmen.

He said the union's concerns were numerous but two key issues needed to be addressed. The first regards the high unemployment of the area, while the second regards one of the Croation workers who was threatened with deportation because he was sick and could not work.

Holden officials said the information supplied by the subcontractor suggested the workers were being treated fairly. One of the workers, Mario Jurinec, told the Adelaide Advertiser that he was happy with the work conditions at Holden.

He said there were behavioural issues with the worker who was allegedly threatened with deportation.