Townsville watching for local content
THEY say when it comes to the media, local content is king.
Well when it comes to big projects in Townsville, the very same thing could be said. But Townsville has been repeatedly robbed in the construction of infrastructure in our region.
It’s an industry stitch- up that leaves local workers and firms in the cold and on the bones of their behinds. This is how it traditionally works. Politician announces big ( insert road, bridge, school, hospital building) for our city, promising millions of dollars worth of economic activity and ( insert number) jobs. The tender goes out and, because of the size of the project, it is determined that only so- called Tier One firms can compete to run it.
These Tier One firms, which are enormous multinational corporations based in a capital city far from here, promise to employ locals and use local contractors. But they also have arrangements with building unions elsewhere around the country. And they don’t want any industrial trouble there.
So of course they strike a deal with the said union, known as an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which guarantees all workers must belong the union and receive a range of generous work conditions. So, with their labour bill much steeper than otherwise anticipated, they either hire subcontractors they already have cosy relationships with in the capital city or they squeeze local outfits so hard they end up with next to no margin. As a result, the project becomes a fly- in, flyout affair with next to no benefits for us.
How do they get away with it? Because under our ludicrous development laws, local is defined as anywhere in Australasia. You could be based in Wellington and be delivering local content! Local business titan Brad Webb has today called out this farce with his defence of Townsville’s steel firms in relation to the CBD stadium project.
So far, the stadium’s lead contractor Watpac, which it must be said has a strong record of supporting this city, has made all the right noises about delivering local content.
Suffice to say Townsville will be holding them to their word.