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457 visas – the picture for rural Australia

Article by Rural Reporters:

457 worker visas play an important role in rural Australia.

Everything from welding to engineering, abattoirs to fruit picking.

The current debate over 457 visas at a federal level has largely centred on the urban workforce, but regional industries say they’re being left out.

Skilled labour is in short supply in some areas and 457 visas are a valuable way to keep some industries operating.

The National Farmers Federation says the Federal Government’s decision to tighten the rules governing access to 457 visas will make it harder for the agriculture industry.

The NFF says with so many workers being attracted to the mining industry, agriculture relies on overseas workers to fill the void.

Chair of the Workplace Relations Committee at the NFF, Charles Armstrong, says any tightening of the rules could hurt farmers.

“Given the purpose of 457 visas is to help Australian businesses source the skilled workers they need when they are unable to find suitable skilled labour domestically, we would like to see the visas extended to cover skills not already included – including those required for agriculture.

Ultimately, we would also like to see the outdated ANZSCO codes revised to reflect modern agriculture employment,” he says.

Cameron Dart is general manager with AWX employment services which places people to work across the country.

He says many regional services like pharmacies or engineering rely on 457 visas for staff, and it’s not often local workers miss out because of jobs going to 457 skilled workers.


Pacific Worker scheme in demand in horticulture

While the Prime Minister claims the 457 visa, seasonal worker program is full of rorts, farmers say they need the workers, but the program is bogged down by administrative red tape and delays.

700 workers from the Pacific have come to work in Australia’s horticulture sector in the past nine months.

One of Australia’s ‘Approved Employers’ says her eight Ni-Vanuatu workers are reliable, hard working and a delight to have around.

The Vernview apple orchard in Victoria’s Yarra Valley is home to a group of happy workers who are using their pay to improve their lives in their home country.


Dairy industry also concerned at potential visa changes

Tasmania’s dairy industry body is concerned an inquiry into 457 visa’s may see the program diminished at a time when demand is expected to increase.

The Federal government is to review the 457 visa program while the ACTU says it’s gathering evidence of the misuse of the foreign worker scheme.

Dairy Tas executive officer Mark Smith says up to 30 and possibly more workers have been employed in the dairy industry, but more across Tasmanian rural industries.

He says with an expected growth in the Tasmanian industry he expects more demand for workers through the 457 visa program.


Fruit pickers worried about backpacker labour

While fruit picking is a job that’s synonymous with backpackers in Australia but what about the locals.

Fruit pickers say it costs more to employ Australians which means employers are ignoring them and taking on backpackers instead.

The locals are worried this trend will continue as they say its been harder to find work in recent years.


Source: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2013/s3713417.htm

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