Pacific islands workers could be working in Australian sheds this Spring if negotiations with the Federal Government and industry groups can be finalised to allow training to start in August.
Long-time Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme advisor, champion and wool producer Robert Ingram said an industry representative group is finalising a proposal to the Federal Government to have PALM workers working with a New South Wales shearing contractor this year.
The group, including representatives from the National Farmers Federation, Shearing Contractors Association of Australia, Australian Wool Innovation’s National Wool Harvesting Technical Advisory Group and the Approved Employers Association, met last Friday.
Ingram has been working on wool industry access to the PALM scheme since 2016 and is seeing his aim to have PALM workers employed in the industry finally approaching fruition.
He said the three issues on the table at the moment to be finalized include union participation in the industry group and ministerial approval of the new PALM scheme procedures and guidelines released last week, but which will need to align with the recommendations in the Federal Government’s recent migration review.
The ‘Review of the Migration System’ final report made several recommendations in relation to the PALM scheme, including allowing temporary migrant workers to move from their current employment to find work with another employer within the same sector or job family, and have up to six months to find new employment.
Ingram said the group he has led and facilitated has negotiated with Australian Workers Union for the last 12 months, “and the union has been kept informed and consulted as to what was needed in the current the proposal and plan being taken forward.”
“We believe the issues the union has brought forward have been addressed, but the government will not go forward until we have the union sitting with us at the table as a part of the group taking the proposal forward to the government.”
Ingram said the AWU has been consulted over the last 12 months in the preparation of the PALM wool industry proposal, but the government wants the unions to speak on their own behalf.
“They’ve been consulted to the extent to get their agreement to proceed.”
Ingram said the group would be approaching the unions as directed by the government to propose they join the group. He said the third concern of the government for PALM workers in the wool industry was ensuring workers’ accommodation and pastoral care needs in isolated camp-out situations were met.
“Approved Employers have strategies and processes developed for the horticultural sector that can be adapted and enhanced for the wool harvesting industry.”
Ingram said that last Friday’s meeting of the group is one of the very few he has seen in the last 50 years as a sixth generation wool producer where the key industry players (SCAA, AWI, NFF, AEA, and with AWU consultation and input) all agreed to the plan and joint presentation to government.
“Nothing would have been achieved without the commitment of these key industry players and I am most grateful for the input and support and basically the work load to deliver the plan in now their responsibility. “I am just a busted down consultant come grumpy old farmer and now a constructive critic on the sideline.”