Australian farmers call for wage increase

by Dominic 25/05/2013 02:00:00

Fruit picking in Australia

The National Farmers' Federation
are pushing for a wage bump for
farm workers.

Completing your regional work requirement in order to obtain your second year visa is never going to be the most fun part of your working holiday in Australia, usually finishing somewhere between getting sunburnt and skydiving. However, it should be one of the most straightforward parts at least but that rarely is the case given the competition for places and pressures on farmers.

Yet that could be about to change as the National Farmers' Federation has called for the national minimum wage level to be increased in order to attract more workers to agriculture, meaning more farmers will be able to get the workers they need to be profitable and therefore offer more opportunities for workers.

The current situation

The current minimum wage is AU$606.40 (£390.70) a week for a full-time average joe but the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) says an increase of AU$9 (£5.80) a week would attract more entry-level workers to the industry.

The farming industry in Australia struggles with its remote locations - and no one does remote quite like Australia. Combine this with the threat of drought and the occasional suspension of live exports for one political reason or other and farming businesses can struggle to attract the necessary staff members during periods of intense labour such as harvests.

This unfortunately leaves a fair few businesses on the ropes and not in much of a position to offer jobs to backpackers.

The proposal

The NFF put their - few would disagree - humble proposal to Fair Work Australia yesterday and spokesperson Brian Duggan - in true pragmatic farmer fashion - is hoping a compromise can be reached even if the influential council does not completely agree.

"Our principal concern is the commodity prices within agriculture are softening, just like the economy," Mr Duggan said.

"Going by the past practice of the panel, they would probably pick somewhere in the middle [of several proposals]."

The NFF's proposal shouldn't face too much derision after the haughty workers' unions called for a AU$30 a week increase (£19.33) in an effort to put a halt to a decline in living standards and everyone in BMWs.

"We say if the panel is to maintain a fair and relevant safety net, we cannot allow this decline in relative earnings to continue," said a spokesperson for the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The outcome

The annual National Minimum Wage Order will be released early next month but Jenny Espiner, working holiday visa processing manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says any minimum wage increase will be great news for backpackers looking to secure their second year visa by completing three months of regional work.

"There aren't many working holiday makers who fancy coming home after just one year in Australia but plenty struggle to find work due to increased competition and the remote location of businesses compared to the cushiness of their Bondi-facing pads," said Ms Espiner.

"An increase in wages will allow more employers to attract workers and remain operational through difficult times, this would undoubtedly trickle down to offer more opportunities for backpackers."

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor with the Australian Visa Bureau, an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications for a Working Holiday Visa to Australia.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

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