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MELBOURNE, Feb 11 AAP

February 11 2013, 09:06AM

Protesters at a Victorian construction site say they applied for jobs that went to foreign workers who have been flown in by helicopter to avoid a blockade.

Nick Donohue, a spokesman for the protesters, says about four workers from the Philippines had been recruited for the Werribee water treatment plant because they would be cheaper than local labour.

"There's no doubt that they've slashed the wages and the working conditions," Mr Donohue told Fairfax Radio on Monday.

"Four of us put in our application, our resumes, that was knocked on the head.

"They say they've got more skills than us. What does that say about the local TAFE system?"

He said about 50 locals after jobs had come to the site to protest against foreign workers on 457 work visas.

The special visas enable companies to sponsor foreign workers if skills cannot be found locally.

The workers had to be flown onto the site via helicopter on Saturday and again on Monday to evade the protesters, Fairfax Media reports.

Briagolong Engineering owner Chris Lupton, one of the contractors, told Fairfax his Filipino workers, who were being paid legal rates under an enterprise agreement, had been abused by the protesters.

He said the dispute was not a strike and it had no link to the project.

The protest has been linked to the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) but assistant state secretary Leigh Diehm has denied union involvement.

He told Fairfax Radio he was more concerned about safety.

"I think it's a bit of a joke, really, that they're being flown in there in the first place," Mr Diehm said.

Mr Donohue said protesters were just local workers who wanted a chance to seek employment.

"Apparently they're not interested in employing guys from the local area," Mr Donohue said.

"I'm a boiler maker/welder, ticketed, with more than enough skills to do this job along with the other workers around here."