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Workers’ union urges government to reverse decision on overseas workers

The Australian Workers’ Union has urged the Australian Department of Home Affairs to reverse a decision that will make it easier for employers in the dairy, fishing, and meat industries to hire migrant workers.

The department of home affairs previously decided to extend industry labour agreements to the dairy, fishery, meat, and pork industries. 

The move was aimed at minimising the need for formal qualifications, work experience standards, and reducing or even eliminating English language requirements. It will also remove the requirement for standard labour market shortage testing.

Border closures and increased demand have aggravated labour shortages in Australia’s small and labour intrinsic businesses. AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said that Ms Andrews must intervene and reverse the decision.

“Regional Australia is crying out for local jobs in the wake of the pandemic, but the government seems determined to fill every regional vacancy with short-term migrants,” said Mr Walton.

“There is a valid role for short-term visas in the case of genuine skills shortages. But how can the government say there’s a skills shortage when they don’t want to make employers even test the local market?”

He added that the government’s priority should be training Australians to perform these roles, not paying migrant workers below the industry standard. This will drive down wages and conditions at precisely the time when the economy needs them to grow. 

“The federal government can’t claim they back Australian jobs when they’re bending over backwards to allow employers to rely on short-term visa holders.

“There would be thousands upon thousands of Australians who would love to score a job in the dairy industry or the meat industry or the fishing industry. 

“But they will be effectively locked out of jobs in their communities by this government’s enthusiasm for doing whatever employers tell them.”

The business community has a significant labour requirement. On the other hand, employers are having difficulty filling many skilled employment vacancies. 

Why have so many positions remained unfilled? 

Part of the problem is a lack of work-ready job candidates. According to the Department of Employment, there are (on average) 11.5 candidates for each skilled vacancy in Australia. While 7.4 have relevant qualifications, only 1.9 are deemed ‘suitable.’

​The government previously announced measures to simplify highly qualified migrants to stay in Australia and continue working in critical sectors while Australia’s economy recovers. 

Alex Hawke, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services, and Multicultural Affairs, stated that these initiatives recognise and encourage skilled migrants who stayed in Australia throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Eligible skilled workers, already in Australia, will continue to support local businesses facing critical shortages, particularly in health, hospitality and our regions,” Minister Hawke said.

“This recognises the economic value-add of these critical workers, and retaining them will greatly assist in Australia’s economic recovery.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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