Australian Meat Industry Council - Department of Immigration and

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Australian Meat Industry Council - Department of Immigration and
SUBMISSION
SUBMISSION TO
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT
IN RESPONSE TO
INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF INTEGRITY IN THE
SUBCLASS 457 PROGRAMME
April 2014
CONTENTS
PAGE
1.
About the Australian Meat Industry Council ……………. 3
2.
Executive Summary ……………………………………… 4
3.
Independent Review of Integrity in the
subclass 457 Programme ....................................................... 5
ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MEAT INDUSTRY COUNCIL
The red meat sector is Australia’s No.1 agricultural enterprise and a significant contributor to the
Australian economy representing over $16.2 billion in gross domestic product, or 1.3% of total
GDP and $7.6 billion in household income in 2010.
It also underpins more than 148,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the economy. The red meat
processing sector however faces growing internal and external challenges placing increased
pressure on its long-term viability in an uncertain global marketplace.
The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) is the recognised Peak Industry body in Australia
representing the post-farm gate red meat sector including the export and domestic processing
industry, smallgoods manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, boning rooms and independent
retail butchers.
Around 92% of livestock turnoff in Australia is processed in businesses located in Australia. AMIC
represents close to 2,500 member companies across Australia.
AMIC provides services and support to members that improves their working environment and is
focused on achieving the best outcomes for the industry and its members as part of one voice on
issues critical to their business. In doing this AMIC also indirectly supports the Australian farming
community and the Australian economy.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Australian Meat Processing industry is a major employer of subclass 457 Primary Visa Holders.
This is caused by a shortage of skilled trained employees despite the ongoing commitment of the
industry to training.
Since 2006 meat processing has operated under a Labour Agreement through which it has access
to Slaughterers and Boners and Slicers, "skilled meat workers". Many of the former 457 visa
holders have moved on to become Permanent Residents of Australia.
Access to 457 visa holders has been restricted since the introduction of requirement for English at
IELTS 5 in 2009. This in turn has increased competition between Sponsors for the available pool of
457 visa holders currently in Australia. This submission argues for a review of this requirement
from IELTS 5 to a more reasonable level of "functional English".
The Meat Industry Labour Agreement (MILA) requires Sponsors to make a minimum annual
payment of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) currently set at $53,900.
This has created issues for Sponsors who have Enterprise Agreements with payment and working
conditions which are different for Australian residents when compared with 457 Primary Visa
Holders.
The MILA places conditions on sponsors which require a high level of cost in administration and
reporting. When added to the TSMIT the cost to access 457 visa holders is high but the shortage of
skilled labour in Australia, despite the industry commitment to training as there are few
alternatives available.
The use of the MILA has ensured that there is a high level of integrity in the 457 visa system in
Australia and Sponsors should be rewarded for their commitment in the delivery of this integrity.
Meat Retailing (Butchers) and Smallgoods Manufacturing are the other sectors which access 457
Primary Visa Holders but are a small percentage of the total. These sectors do not require access
to the MILA, for reasons explained in this submission.
The Australian Meat Industry Council
April 2014
INTEGRITY IN THE SUBCLASS 457 PROGRAMME
AN INTRODUCTION
The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) represents the post farm gate meat industry. It has
been extensively involved in the subclass 457 programme, providing advice to members and in
negotiations which have given rise to the Meat Industry Labour Agreement.
AMIC does not sponsor 457 visa holders directly. Its role is one of advice and support.
This submission is confined to certain issues raised in the Terms of Reference. It is provided
following consultation with its members.
The Meat Industry Labour Agreement (MILA) was originally negotiated with the Commonwealth in
2006. The MILA was subsequently renegotiated in 2009 and that agreement stands today.
The original MILA was negotiated to address a range of perceived concerns in relation to the 457
visa system and to address an error in the ANZSCO classifications which incorrectly classified
831212 Slaughterer and 831211 Boners and Slicers as Skill Level 4. The equivalent occupations for
other sectors of the meat industry are 351211 Butchers or Smallgoods Maker which are Skill Level
3. Negotiations to correct the Skill Levels for Slaughterers and Boners and Slicers were
unsuccessful and resulted in the MILA to allow access to 457 Primary Visa Holders.
Retail Butchers and Smallgoods Makers have access to the 457 system and the MILA does not
apply to those persons.
Since the introduction of the MILA most of the checks and balances considered to be a
requirement for the meat industry have become standard requirements for all 457 visa holders.
RESPONSE TO TERMS OF REFERENCE 1
Issue 2. Are there circumstances or situations that are more likely to lead to greater noncompliance in the programme?
The MILA specifically requires the sponsor to be the meat processing employer of the 457 Primary
Visa Holder and is of the view that this has improved compliance in the meat industry. AMIC does
not support labour hire companies as the sponsor of 457 visa holders.
RESPONSE TO TERMS OF REFERENCE 2 AND 3
Issue 1 How do the existing requirements fit with the intention of the 457
programme?
By its nature the program is designed to address immediate skill shortages in a
business. Department processing times to establish the MILA and policy difficulties
significantly slows down the timeliness of the process. Additionally there is
considerable cost incurred by the Sponsoring Employer .
Issue 3 Are there any aspects of the sponsorship framework or nomination process
that could be made to work more efficiently or effectively?
Because of the difficulty in accessing new 457 visa holders in the meat industry,
current Sponsor employers are becoming increasingly frustrated by 457 visa holders
(and to a lesser extent 186 (855) visa holders) being enticed to work for other
Sponsor/Employers, more often than not , with the promise of very favourable yet
fanciful employment conditions, promises of being able to sponsor and provide
employment for family members (ineligible dependants under DIBP policy) .e.g
brothers/cousins, and particularly around arrangements for fast tracking to
permanent residency - inevitably these promises turn out to be hollow.
The meat industry should have the same requirements on its sponsored visa holders
(particularly the 186 (855) visa) as for the new skills select 489 visa, which has been
available from 1 July 2012
http://www.immi.gov.au/skills/skillselect/index/visas/subclass-489/
and the RSMS scheme
http://www.immi.gov.au/skills/skillselect/index/visas/subclass-187/
The current system encourages 457's seeking 186 (855) sponsorship with companies
other than their current sponsoring Employer, until a decision is made on the PR 186
(855) visa. There are many instances of “employer shopping” being undertaken by
the sponsored employee.
Issue 5 Are fees and associated costs appropriate for this programme and who
should be responsible for paying fees?
Visas Significant cost increases on sponsoring employers via DIAC fees and charges were
incurred in July 2012 & again in September 2012, almost tripling over this period.
There have been no discernible client service improvements which would justify
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these steep increases. Visa application fees are excessive, with applicants
experiencing difficulty in meeting associated costs for subsequent visas or to bring
family members to join them whilst in Australia.
Health and MedicalSponsored imported workers should not be a burden on the Australian taxpayer and
it is very important that such workers and their dependants do not place extra
pressure on Public Hospital systems already struggling to cope, particularly in
regional centres.
Sponsored visa holders should, during the entire period of their visa maintain fully
comprehensive hospital, medical and dental insurance. The Federal Government
should create a comprehensive medical insurance scheme specifically designed to
cover all 457 visa holders and their dependants, regardless of industry. This is
needed because existing insurance cover is invariably insufficient to cover large
medical costs associated with complex treatment such as surgery, kidney dialysis and
complications of pregnancy. Quite often, the gap in the benefit and the fees incurred
are so large that the sponsoring employer is required to assist with payment of
these bills.
Income ProtectionIncome protection policies should be mandatory for sponsored visa holders as a visa
condition. This is particularly important in the case of non-work related injuries
which prevent visa holders from working for prolonged periods. One meat industry
superannuation fund (AMIST) offers income protection after a 30 day waiting
period. Other funds do not offer income protection.
Issue 6 Are the requirements of labour market testing suitable, including the
current scope for exemptions and protected occupations?
The Australian Meat Processing Industry has a preference to employ Australian
residents. It provides a comprehensive training regime to all employees and is
frequently the major employer in regional Australia.
Meat processors use a range of techniques to attract employees including, but not
limited to, local newspaper advertising, presentations to schools and technical
institutes, word of mouth and contact with family members of current employees.
Access to the MILA requires the applicant to demonstrate that it has undertaken
Labour Market Testing.
The requirements of the MILA are onerous and repetitious - an annual audit able
reporting process on sponsors LMT regime would be preferable.
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Issue 7 Are the current training benchmarks appropriate and/or adequate for
ensuring that employers provide training opportunities to Australians?
The MILA has benchmarks based on average monetary sums or percentage of total
employees which can be difficult to report. Other quantitative method should be
considered, e.g. hours of training per Australians.
Issue 8 How effective is the market rates framework for ensuring that 457 visa
holders are provided with Australian terms and conditions of employment and
how should the market rate be determined and assessed?
The MILA requires that all skilled meat workers are paid the TISMIT. AMIC has
argued that the relevant Industrial Instrument should determine the rate of payment
to the skilled meat worker. Frequently the meat processor has a Registered
Enterprise Agreement with its employees and this document provides more than a
simple rate of pay. It is a requirement of the MILA that a copy of this Agreement
must be made available to the Department.
Employees undertaking like functions can currently be paid different rates of pay
depending on their status as Australian permanent residents or subclass 457 primary
visa holders. To address this, the Registered Enterprise Agreement would be a more
appropriate basis of establishing the appropriate market rate for a sponsor.
A subclass 457 secondary visa holder is paid under the relevant Industrial
Instrument, usually the Enterprise Agreement.
Issue 9 Is the application of a Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold
(TSMIT) appropriate and is it set at the appropriate level? If so, how should it be
indexed?
The TISMIT is currently $53,900 per annum , being indexed to the annual increase in
Australian Ordinary Time Earnings as calculated by the ABS. This creates inequity
between skilled overseas workers and local workers who are employed under an
Enterprise Agreement in that the rate of change in each may be different and the
457 Primary Visa Holder has a guaranteed minimum annual income.
There are a number of existing industrial circumstances whereby visa holders can be
absent from work without pay, which are largely or totally ignored in the current
MILA TISMIT provisions.
Any employee- instigated unpaid periods of absence during which the visa holder is
not entitled to social security benefits, should reduce pro-rata the annual MSL/
TISMIT entitlement by the ratio the normally rostered working hours not worked by
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the visa holder during the absence, bears to 1982.745 hours. (52.1775 weeks x 38
hrs per week).
Australia has a semi- deregulated labour market, regulated by the Fair Work Act
2009, the objects of which, specifically promote the setting of wages and conditions
of employment at the most micro level- each enterprise. The imposition of a "one
size fits all" minimum annual salary does not sit well (and in fact is directly at odds
with) the objects of the FWA.
This is a complex issue but AMIC believes that it is more appropriate that the
Enterprise Agreement should replace the TISMIT as the appropriate underpinning
document.
Issue 10 How effective are skills assessments in ensuring 457 visa holders have the
skill for the nominated position? Is there something that could be done to improve
and or streamline the requirement for the business?
The MILA requires that all 457 visa holders are assessed to ensure that they have
skills commensurate with a Certificate III in Meat Processing.
Issue 11 In what circumstances should 457 visa applicants be required to undertake
an English language test? Are the current English language requirements
appropriate?
The MILA requires that all potential visa holders are assessed to have the equivalent
of IELTS 5 in English. The meat industry has long been an employer of immigrants to
Australia who have limited English. The industry has addressed issues such as
Workplace Health and Safety by using international signs and a "buddy system" with
a fellow employee who is bilingual. All employment documents are required under
the MILA to in the language of the visa holder.
AMIC submits that the requirement for IELTS 5 is far too high for the meat
processing industry and that it should be replaced with "functional English".
Arguably it is the requirement for IELTS 5 which is the greatest impediment to access
to the 457 visa system.
A reasonable alternative to the current requirements would be:
•
For new entrants to Australia on 457 visas- IELTS 2 in Speaking and Listening
or an undertaking from the sponsoring employer to provide, at its cost
,accredited training designed to equip primary visa holders to achieve AQF
Certificate II in SWE within twelve months of commencing employment in
Australia.
•
For 457 visa holders already in Australia and holding visas issued under the
current Labour Agreement – AQF Certificate II in Spoken and Written English
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(CSWE) by the expiry date of the current visa and as a pre-requisite for
obtaining a further 457 visa.
•
For 186 (855) permanent residency visa applicants- AQF Certificate III in
Spoken and Written English. This would be at the visa holder's expense.
Given that MILA employers will continue to be required to supply professional
tuition for non English speaking employees and if a benchmark English competency
standard is required it should be•
vocationally not academically based, and
•
determined by industry stakeholders following expert independent
advice as to what might be a functional level of English required so that
people can work safely in the industry, and
•
if indeed a recognised competency standard is needed at all, be issued
under the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF), not IELTS
Issue 12 Is the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL) an appropriate
source for occupations relevant to the 457 visa?
Yes, provided that the ANZSCO occupations of Slaughterer and Boner and Slicer are
included.
Issue 14 Is there a more effective way to define nominated positions than ANZSCO,
to capture emerging occupations and to provide clarity of positions between skill
levels?
ANZSCO is appropriate provided the correct Skills Level are applied to 831212
Slaughterer and 831211 Boners and Slicers as Skill Level 3.
Issue 16 Would providing improved support and information to employers and visa
holders on their rights and obligations help to improve the integrity of the 457 visa
programme? If yes, how might this be implemented?
Currently visa holder obligations are only communicated at time of visa grant
through the visa grant letter. Visa holders do not generally appreciate the
significance of not meeting their obligations. Further communication with visa
holders needs to occur to ensure that they are meeting their obligations.
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Issue 17 Are Department of Immigration and Border Protection outreach officers
utilised effectively by stakeholders in providing information on the 457 visa
programme?
DIBP processing case officers are not always aware of the requirements and policy
of Labour Agreements, therefore generating unnecessary requests for further
information delaying processing times. Improved training with the objective of
reducing generalised answers would assist in reducing the current waiting periods
especially in relation to permanent residency matters.
Issue 18 What impact do labour agreements have in terms of managing noncompliance or fraud in the 457 programme?
The Meat Industry Labour Agreement was developed in response to the errors in
ANZSCO and the perceived weaknesses in the basic subclass 457 visa system. The
latter has been addressed and the MILA therefore preceded the changes in the
system.
Labour Agreement provide for specific industry solutions where non-compliance
issues emerge.
TERMS OF REFERENCE 4
Issue 2 Could employers be provided with greater incentives to comply with the
requirements of the 457 visa programme? If so, how might this be implemented?
A scaled fee structure based on auditing and application of a "star " rating system
similar to that currently applied to job placement agencies by DEEWER should be
considered.
Issue 3 Could the system be improved to reward employers with a history of strong
compliance? If so, how might this be implemented?
The meat industry has a history of compliance under the MILA since 2006 .
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Sponsors who have this history should be rewarded with reduced reporting and
compliance requirements.
Issue 9 Is information about workers’ rights and responsibilities under Australian
law readily accessible to 457 visa holders in appropriate formats?
This responsibility is currently with employers to advise of rights and responsibility
under FWA and NES. The DIBP web site provides sufficient information on the 457
rights and responsibilities.
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AUSTRALIAN MEAT INDUSTRY COUNCIL
ABN 65 990 653 488
Level 2, Suite 2.09
460 Pacific Highway
St Leonards NSW
Australia 2065
P O Box 1208
Crows Nest NSW 1585
Contact Details:
Kevin Cottrill
Kevin Cottrill
Chief Executive Officer
Telephone: (02) 9086 2211
Facsimile: (02) 9086 2201
Email: [email protected]
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