The cost of bringing skilled migrants to work in Australia will “double” under changes forced by the axeing of the 457 visa system.
Both the pork and dairy industries voiced concern that regional and rural businesses will be hurt in the interim as the 457 visa system is replaced by a new two-tier system, with stricter controls on who can be brought in to work in Australia.
The pork industry has been assured that visa applications in the pipeline will not be hurt by the visa changes, which the Turnbull Government is touting as a fillip for Australian workers.
Australian Pork Limited general manager of policy Deb Kerr said initial reports suggested the cost of bringing in skilled migrant workers will increase. This is thought to be because of new entry requirements, including having police checks on applicants.
Ms Kerr said skilled migrant workers had provided a strong backbone to the industry over at least a decade.
“The 457 system was there because we had a skills shortage.For many producers it has been very difficult to attract workers regionally for some of these roles,” she said.
“The cost of bringing workers might increase under this new system but no details have been released around this.
“We have now learned that applications that have been lodged will still be processed.”
A large bulk of piggery workers had migrated from the Philippines, where the workers had excellent animal husbandry skills, often having achieved Cert 4 credentials.
She said skilled migrants added immensely to the social fabric of many regional towns. Many of these workers and their family members were prepared to live in regional areas, work at the piggeries and use their experiences to benefit Australian piggeries.
Their presence had actually saved a small school near Pyramid Hill in Victoria from being forced to close by boosting student numbers.
Young piggery owner Ean Pollard said under the rejig it will be harder to get workers with animal husbandry skills, who have been vital to the industry’s growth.
Mr Pollard said his business struggled to get local workers into the jobs, which the Filippinos were more than ready to accept. He was concerned the new system would make it harder to get the workers into the country, not easier. “It is already hard enough under the 457 system,” he said. Many of the new requirements, including language skills, were not relevant to workers in the pork industry.
The dairy industry was also concerned it would not have easy access to skilled workers and the new system would create more red tape.
Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) is seeking assurances that there will not be any changes to the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement, under the new visa arrangements.
Interim ADF CEO, John McQueen said access to skilled workers was essential to the continued growth and productivity of the dairy industry, yet there is still a critical shortage of skilled dairy farm workers.
“The dairy industry relies on skilled migration to bolster its workforce and help our farmers with critical labour shortages.”
“Our preference is always to hire Australian workers, but there are not enough experienced workers to meet the demand.”
“Many dairy employers rely on skilled overseas workers to fill core on-farm roles due to the lack of available local labour”, said Mr McQueen.
The ADF said that “under the template agreement finalised with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on 17 July 2015, dairy farmers can recruit skilled senior farmhands from overseas on 457 visas, as well as farm managers”.
The dairy industry had invested heavily in recruitment, training and retention programs since 2006, and will continue to do – being able to recruit overseas is just another option for farmers to meet demand in the short to medium term.
“We are concerned that instead of addressing farmers worries and streamlining the application process, the Government’s changes could mean more red tape by placing an even greater administrative burden on farmers,” said Mr McQueen.