09 February 2012

Sheep shearers want Australian 457 visa for migrant workers

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With skill shortages in Western Australia raising concerns within the shearing industry, industry professionals are calling for the Australian 457 visa programme to be expanded to allow migrant workers to fill the labour gaps.

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Professionals within the sheep shearing industry claim migrant workers would help with seasonal demand.

WA Shearing Industry Association Executive Officer Vicki Gates is reportedly liaising with Rural Skills Australia in an attempt to get shearing on the list of skills shortages in a hope that migrant shearers can be eligible for an Australian 457 visa.

"Shearing happens between the peak periods of January to March and August to November so it's now extremely seasonal, making finding workers tougher," said WASI President Darren Spencer.

"The issues the shearing industry is facing aren't just going to go away. Part of the solution could be with migrant labour, similar to what the fruit picking industry is doing, bringing in migrants from the Pacific Islands to help during the critical times of the season."

The fruit picking industry has benefitted from Australian immigration allowances, bringing in thousands of workers to help during seasonal harvest times.

Mr Spencer says that there is already interest in shearing opportunities from migrant workers, more so than native Australians.

"I had an advert in the paper last week and I've had 10 Irish call me as well as a few other nationalities, and I have only had two Aussies call."

Mr Spencer claims there are plenty of overseas workers, particularly from Scotland, who wanted to come and put their skills to use in Western Australia but that visa restrictions were preventing them from doing so.

"If the government was able to remove some of the red tape surrounding obtaining a visa it would help solve some of the skills shortage in the shearing industry.

"The 457 visa that is already available for migrants wanting to work in the shearing industry is inadequate because the work available is not continuous."


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