SEASONAL WORKERS AND AN ETHICAL WORKFORCE

There are skill shortages in agriculture. The leading reason being the location of many agricultural workplaces makes it difficult to attract workers. Skill shortages are widespread across all agricultural industries and the demand for skilled workers is likely to grow into the future.  

The VFF condemns the employment of illegal workers either directly on-farm or through labour hire agencies. We are actively working with the state government to ensure there is a national approach to improving the labour hire landscape to deliver a nationally enforceable code of practice.

In parallel, the VFF is advocating for an expansion of the 456 Visa across a range of agricultural related activities that allow a seasonal foreign workforce to fulfil on-farm and associated roles that remain vacant.

Changes to 457 Visas

On 18 April 2017, the federal government announced the changes to the 457 visa program and transition to the new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) Visa.  The new TSS visa will commence in March 2018.

Under the TSS visa there will be two streams. The first stream is a short-term stream of up to two years and the second is a medium-term stream of up to four years. 

Details of the changes can be found online.

What is changing? 

From 19 April 2017 the occupational lists that underpin the 457 Visa have been reduced from 635 to 435. Certain occupations have been removed such as, aeroplane pilot, butcher and small goods maker, blacksmith, helicopter pilot, shearer, stock and station agent, wool classer, goat farmer, deer farmer and turf grower. Of the 435 occupations that remain, there are 24 occupations which relate to farming and agriculture; these occupations have been restricted to regional Australia. 

These are: crop farmer, dairy cattle farmer, livestock farmer, mixed livestock farmer, poultry farmer, pig farmer, sheep farmer, vegetable grower, shearer and some other occupations. 

Regional postcodes are directly linked to the 24 occupations – in Victoria these are 3211 to 3334, 3340 to 3424, 3430 to 3649, 3658 to 3749, 3753, 3756, 3758, 3762, 3764, 3778 to 3781.

The Consolidated Sponsored Occupational List (CSOL) is now named the Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STOL) which will be updated every six months on advice from the Department of Employment.

Other lists that were used for skilled migration such as the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) have been renamed the new Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). Occupations on this list have been assessed as being of high value to the economy and aligned to the government’s longer term training and workforce strategies.

The VFF and our federal partner the National Farmers Federation have forwarded a submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Department of Employment on the Employer Sponsored Skilled Migration Programme Reforms. In this submission we call for the reinstatement of various occupations such as food technologist, shearer, maintenance planner and other dairy Industry occupations.

Skilled migration is one of the options that are available to fill critical roles. The removal of the access to certain occupations will have impacts on business viability for agricultural businesses especially in a technology changing environment and Australia’s role in providing a substantive contribution to helping the world feed itself.