The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 31, 2012

U.S. Aussie pipe trades forge link to exchange skills, job opportunities

By The Building Tradesman

ANN ARBOR – The United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), North America, and the Plumbing Trades Employees Union (PTEU), Australia, signed an affiliation agreement on Aug. 15 to implement joint skills training and employment initiatives in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

A first between the two unions, the agreement seeks to help streamline the building industry, reduce the shortage of skilled workers and provide skilled manpower to tackle the global problem of climate change. The pact could ease the way for American pipe trades Hardhats who have certain areas of expertise to work in Australia, and for Aussies to come work here.

“Emerging technologies and building standards promise to have a significant impact on the efficient delivery of energy and water,” said UA General President William P. Hite. “It is essential that we share best practices and training as systems, products and technologies begin to standardize globally. The UA will initially share its expertise in heavy industry as Australia embarks on expansion of oil and gas refining, and power generation projects. Our experience in training workers for certification in welding, instrumentation installation and calibration is highly

valued by our industry.”

PTEU Federal Secretary Earl Setches said there is $190 billion worth of work in the resource (energy) sector to be completed in Australia with thousands of jobs now availableNorth Americans have the infrastructure know-how to help on these large projects. The Australian Prime Minister has paved the way for visas for North American workers in all phases of plumbing, pipe fitting, sprinkler fitting and welding trades persons to be expedited. There will soon be an online registration process in place for workers to sign on.

Setches offered his own union members’ know-how, saying “Australian expertise in water conservation will serve North America as it seeks to address its aging water and sewer infrastructure, and retrofit its existing building stock. We have vast knowledge of irrigation systems, rain water harvesting, and water treatment and recycling.”

Australians, including PTEU members, have embarked on a campaign to retrofit 1,200

existing buildings in the City of Melbourne and its municipality. They recently celebrated the award of the U.S. Green Building Councilʼs highest LEED® rating in the world for the Grocon Pixel Building, Melbourne.

Both organizations see an immediate need to share best practices on bio-fuels, geothermal and tri-generation, which is a power-heat-refrigeration combined system that recycles waste heat and water for other uses. “There is tremendous job growth potential now for building and water infrastructure improvement, as well as alternate and traditional forms of energy generation,” said Hite.

An Australian contractor sees benefit in the agreement: this is a first step in skilled workers traveling within the trade. “We think as a global company. We need qualified workers now in some of our mining projects,” said Axis Plumbing Group Managing Director Clem Morfuni. Experts in grey water, black water recycling, and solar hot water, Axis also operates in New Zealand, United Kingdom and Thailand. “This is a first step in contractors coming together, too. I want to learn about building innovations and how the market works in North America. Iʼm

hoping American contractors will want to know more about our Green Star building design and construction.”

William J. (“Mac”) Lynch, president of the 2,400-member Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) said: “This agreement will help us meet the needs of building owners. As an industry our contractors recognize that their competitive position and ability to exceed their clients expectations rests largely on the skills and abilities of their union workforce.”