Visas for overseas workers in the red meat processing sector need review

(28 September 2018)

A shortage of 3,000 employees is a significant and pressing concern for the Australian red meat industry, according to the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC). The Government needs to reaffirm its commitment to an agricultural visa, one which allows overseas workers onto Australian farms and into agricultural processing plants such as abattoirs.

AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson says a lack of progression on greater access to visa workers is hurting the industry. Sourcing appropriate labour is a major obstacle to further investment in meat processing in Australia.

This is an industry that employs nearly 130,000 people directly and indirectly and in regional areas it is often the biggest employer in town, he says. But accessing staff can be really tough and if processors cant get the people they need, they cant operate at full capacity. A shortage of 3,000 employees across Australia is holding back regional development and the support of Australias rural sector.

The Australian agribusiness sector is not just farms and farmers, it is an entire supply chain that employs thousands of people and adds billions of dollars to the economy. We need to ensure the whole supply chain is thriving, he says.

There are a number of serious challenges to our sector which can only be solved with government support and that starts with genuine recognition of the critical role of the supply chain in the agri industry. We all want farms to thrive and the reality is that farms do better when the supply chain does better, Patrick said.

Red meat processors like Fletcher International Exports in Dubbo have implemented extensive labour programs. They recruit local workers first but the region in which they operate has an unemployment rate of less than 3.5% so its a constant challenge. Like most plants, Fletchers requires the potential applicants to pass a pre-employment medical, which includes a drug and alcohol test, so the number of applicants is reduced.

They advertise regularly for potential new local workers and work with local employment services. They fill most skilled positions with local workers, but it is the unskilled positions where there is the biggest need and the biggest turnover.

On behalf of our members we are calling on government to commit to confirming plans for agricultural visas soon, Patrick Hutchinson, CEO, AMIC said.

AMIC is the peak council representing meat retailers, processors and smallgoods manufacturers and is the only industry association representing the post-farmgate Australian meat industry.

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Further information:
Patrick Hutchinson
CEO, Australian Meat Industry Council
0435 357 942
phutchinson@amic.org.au