Workforce Solutions, a Brisbane-based, family-owned contract labour hire company, has become the first in Australia to finalise a new labour agreement with the Federal Government.
The agreement – entitled On-Hire Industry Labour Deed of Agreement for Entry of Skilled Overseas Workers - allows Workforce Solutions to provide temporary skilled overseas workers to its clients under the section 457 visa* scheme.
On October 1, 2007, Kevin Andrews, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, announced new regulations requiring labour hire firms who sponsor workers from overseas on the 457 visa to enter into a labour agreement with the DIAC and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
The labour agreement mandates for the training of Australian workers and sets the skill level and salary for skilled overseas workers as well as committing the labour hire firm to a range of other bligations including the cost of final return to a skilled overseas worker’s home country and the cost of public hospital services.
The Minister Kevin Andrews said the labour agreement was part of the Government’s commitment to training Australians and its desire to assist employers to fill the skilled labour ‘gaps’ in order to grow their businesses.
Federal member for Moreton, the Hon Gary Hardgrave, said he was excited by the opportunities this new agreement would mean for local businesses.
"Our area is a hub for the mining industry in Queensland and many businesses provide support in manufacturing components and machines for the sector," Mr Hardgrave said.
"However, some businesses are feeling constrained because of a lack of suitably qualified workers and this new agreement with Workforce Solutions will help to fill the needs of business in our area."
"With the stability of labour provided by this new agreement, local businesses can plan to grow with confidence that will see them expand and create even more jobs for local people."
Australian labour hire firms have been recruiting an increasing number of 457 visa workers due to a profound shortage of skilled Australian workers.
Workforce Solutions, which has specialised in providing trades people to clients since 1992 and has two offices in Brisbane and one in Perth, is the only recruitment firm to have secured the labour agreement.
As part of the agreement, Workforce Solutions has agreed to the Federal Government requirement that for each year of the labour agreement, it meets a prescribed benchmark of training of Australian workers, to help alleviate the critical skills shortage.
This requires Workforce Solutions to contribute to the training of Australian workers by devoting 2 per cent of its payroll to training, or at least 15 per cent of its trade workforce to be Australian apprentices or recent Australian apprentices.
Workforce Solutions General Manager Bill Gamack said he approached the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in June this year to obtain a labour agreement.
"This agreement is a significant milestone for Workforce Solutions and has sent a very positive message about the Federal Government’s faith in Workforce Solutions’ current migration practices. It also strengthens our credentials to continue to be an employer of choice for Australian and overseas skilled workers,” he said.
"Workforce Solutions became a section 457 visa Business Sponsor in late 2006 and we now have a number of international recruits working in Australia. We have built up a substantial database of skilled overseas workers who want to live and work in Australia."
Mr Gamack estimates his firm would need to utilise skilled overseas workers to fill more than 200 positions this year. The range of skills includes trades people (such as electricians, boilermakers, welders, joiners and fitters), hairdressers, chefs and registered nurses.
Mr Gamack said the skills shortage and the need to continue to use overseas skilled labour was due to several factors including: the record low unemployment rate, the resources boom, job vacancies being at their highest levels for 15 years; and Australia’s ageing population. There has also been a trend for employers to use more flexible labour such as contract labour.
*‘457 visa’ is the Temporary Business (Long Stay) – Standard Business Sponsorship (Subclass 457) Visa.
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