Australian meatworks should employ local workers first

“Australian meatworks should employ local workers first”: Minister Evans

Graham Smith, SA State Secretary

After uncovering a racket of illegal foreign workers in the Australian meat industry, the Immigration Minister Senator Chris Evans has called upon employers to look towards local workers first.

Senator Evans is urging employers to exhaust local labour supplies first in response to the increasing levels of unemployed Australians during the global crisis.

The Minister says the need for employing workers on Australian visas would continue to reduce in reaction to the rising numbers of Australians becoming available for work, and the Government would not support any employer who unnecessarily overlooks local labour.

“The Rudd Government does not support any employer who seeks to use the 457 visa programme as a substitute for local labour,” Senator Evans said. “Temporary overseas workers are only to be employed if labour cannot be sourced locally.”

The Government has confirmed it would be closely monitoring the meat industry to ensure it is complying with conditions of the temporary workers scheme, including training and hiring local workers before hiring overseas workers.

According to the Government, the global crisis has caused a 33% drop in applications for subclass 457 visas between September 2008 and February 2009 Australia wide.
Senator Evans has also made it clear to major meat industry employees and their representatives that the abuse of backpacker visas is going to be subject to close scrutiny from now on.

“The 417 visa is supposed to be a holiday visa that allows some work, not a work visa that allows some holiday.”

Many employers in the meat industry have turned to backpackers rather than continue to use workers on 457 visas since the creation of the Labor Government. Employers complain that the labour agreement is simply too expensive for them and argue that they should be able to pay the same rates as they pay other lower paid workers in the industry. The labour agreement contains a minimum salary level (currently $43,000 per annum) that is designed to protect the visa scheme and Australian jobs.

Minister Evans has told the meat industry to reduce its reliance on 417 backpackers or the Government will act to do it for them.