THE Australian Meat Industry Council has expressed concern over the lack of consultation and resulting uncertainty following the Federal Government’s announcement today abolishing 457 visas.
The processing industry’s peak council said the move had the potential to play a part in impacting the future viability of the industry, which was already under pressure from external challenges, including the worst terms of trade on record, high input costs and increasing regulatory burdens.
AMIC spokesman Patrick Hutchinson said meat processors were the largest employers in rural and regional Australia after mining, and the unexpected announcement had sent shockwaves through the industry.
“There are so many questions we simply don’t have answers to and quite frankly, that isn’t good enough,” he said.
“We don’t know what occupations will be impacted, as outlined by the Federal Immigration Minister, and how in turn this will affect the industry. We don’t know how the outcomes of the ‘best and brightest’ test will be applied. We don’t know about what access the sector will have to the training fund. There is also a great deal of uncertainty regarding the status of existing 457 visa applications have not yet been approved.
“Our door is always open and we hope to have the opportunity to sit down with the government on this critical issue so it can provide clarity for the sector,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“In our industry, we need certainty to forward-plan – and that includes being able to plan around employment,” he said. A number of unique skill sets were required within the sector and a critical number of these were filled by employees on 457 visas.
“Recruitment of staff always has been and always will be about finding people with the right skill set for the job, who are willing to work within our industry environment in regional and rural Australia,” he said.
“AMIC’s focus is on keeping the supply chain moving, and as the peak council for Australia’s post-farm-gate meat industry, we call on the government to have an open and honest conversation with us, to ensure the sector’s longevity and its international competitiveness.”
“We are relieved that current 457 visa holders will be unaffected by the announcement.”
The meat processing industry is presently included in the ‘Accommodation and Food Services’ classification for 457 visas. Figures as at June 2016 show there are more than 15,000 current visas on issue in this category, which represents more than 15pc of total 457 visa numbers.
The number of 457 visa holders must be approved by the Department of Immigration on an annual basis. The Department can require evidence that the employer has attempted to employ Australian permanent residents and that 457 visa holders have skills that are not currently available to the employer.
Workers on 457 visas are employed under the Meat Industry Labour Agreement with the Commonwealth, which provides for a minimum annual salary. In addition, 457 holders must be appropriately skilled with a Certificate III, which is independently assessed, and able to demonstrate capability in both spoken and written English.
Individual processors have told Beef Central that some former 457 visa holders have now transitioned across to Australian permanent resident status, potentially reducing the proportion of plant staff that are statistically designated as 457 visa holders.
Teys Australia issued a brief statement this afternoon, saying it was aware of the announcement made by the Federal Government about 457 Visas.
“This type of employment is important to our industry and to the economies across regional Australia, as it is often difficult to find local workers,” Teys said.
“At this stage we do not know the details around this announcement so cannot make further comment until these are forthcoming.”
Source: AMIC, Teys Australia