THE WA meat processing industry has unanimously rejected a three-year labour agreement for the tempo

31 May, 2007 07:00 PM

Australian Meat Industry Council WA executive director Merv Darcy said it was another indication both governments had no interest in regional WA.

He said the saga had been ongoing since July 4 last year when initial talks were held with Agriculture Minister Kim Chance.

³The latest agreement is totally unworkable for industry,² Mr Darcy said.

He said the industry had requested amendments be made to original agreements and believed those requests had been taken on board.

³But this new agreement is basically the same one we rejected in December 2006, only they have added in more onerous requirements,² Mr Darcy said.

³The industry believes both governments have wasted six months of industry¹s time by failing to advance the issue.²

Mr Darcy said there were a number of requirements that processors felt were unworkable.

³Initially the agreement was for a four-year visa, which has now come back to three years,² he said.

³We also believed that there would be a review after six months and that was all, this new agreement states a review would be carried out every six months.²

Mr Darcy said under the agree-ment, processors would have to pay a base salary of $41,850, which was well above the award rate.

³On top of that we are responsible for airfares for any family members they bring with them, medical costs, and they also have to pass an English competency test that some Australians would probably have difficulty passing,² he said.

³Assessments also have to be carried out in the country of origin prior to them coming to Australia all at the cost of the processor.²

Under the agreement, proces-sors have to commit to training Australian workers to meet a 15pc quota of their work force.

Mr Darcy said the industry requested this be dropped to 10pc, which wasn¹t in the latest agreement.

³There is also a stipulation that overseas workers coming in could only do specific jobs, which goes against Worksafe legislation that workers shouldn¹t be carrying out repetitive tasks,² he said.

³At the end of the day we put up a list of our areas of concern, and not one of them has been implemented in fact they added more unreasonable requirements.²

He said meat processors were not aware of any other industry that has been denied access to the 457-visa system and been forced to accept a labour agreement or get no help in solving its labour shortage crisis.

³The discrimination by both governments is untenable,² he said.

³While processors respect the right of individual enterprises to take up the agreement if they choose, the document doesn¹t have industry support.

³The labour crisis will conti-nue to severely impact upon the meat industry¹s ability to satisfy its export and domestic demand.

³This agreement is a kick in the guts not only for processors but also for farmers and regional areas.

³Producers will have to wait in a long queue as processors simply don¹t have enough staff to process their stock.²

The agreement for the tempo-rary entry of skilled meatwor-kers to WA was finalised by Federal Immigration and Citizenship Minister Kevin Andrews and WA Small Business Minister Margaret Quirk last week.



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