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Pilbara Council wants nod for small traders to hire foreign workers on 457 visas

Updated Mon 26 May 2014, 5:44pm AEST


MAP: Karratha 6714

The Pilbara Regional Council has formally applied to the Department of Immigration to allow small businesses in the North West to employ foreign workers on 457 visas.

It is hoped a regional migration agreement will help fill a shortfall of jobs in the community sector.

Council chief executive Tony Friday said during the height of the mining boom, small businesses in the Pilbara were struggling to secure local staff.

“It represents a really good option for small business when we find ourselves in the middle of a boom cycle and are unable to staff important community positions,” he said.

“The perfect time to do it would have been in time for the last boom, before small businesses were screaming because they couldn’t get hold of staff and positions were going unfilled.

“As a government, our job is to look beyond that immediate horizon and to recognise that there’s a cyclical nature to this problem and so we need to put a permanent solution in place.”

Mr Friday says the importing of foreign workers is a last resort for small businesses and would not encroach on Australian jobs.

“Anybody who has employed staff in the past knows that the perfect staff member lives just around the corner, they can walk to work, you don’t have to provide housing for them and they’re familiar with the community already,” he said.

“We tried putting up substantive sums of incentive money to get people to come across from interstate and the take-up of that was very low.

“Australians by and large aren’t particularly mobile as a workforce, and they’ll almost tend to change careers before they change locations.

“So this agreement represents the last step in the chain of options for small business in the Pilbara.

“It’s a last step though, that is currently not available to them.”

Creating a ‘level playing field’ with big business: council

Mr Friday says the use of 457 visas will give small businesses the same access to staff currently enjoyed by major companies in the region.

“If they [mining companies] want a pipeline engineer then they can turn to a 457 program if they can’t get one within the country,” he said.

“These occupations that we’re talking about, the aged care workers and the like, it’s simply not available to them under the current immigration regime.

“It’s very important that when all else fails, the same playing field is offered to small businesses and the community sector.

“In terms of the number of places that we’ve asked the Federal Government to make available under this agreement – it really doesn’t bother me if they make it 13 or 13,000. But it’s important the instrument is available to employers.”


Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-26/council-seeks-nod-for-small-traders-to-hire/5477934}

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