How our local workforce got 'ignored'
LOCAL workers' resumes dropped in the bin, hot air balloon companies deflating with no employees and businesses claiming a skills shortage while ignoring people in reskilling programs.
These were the stories that emerged in the first day of a senate inquiry in Mackay examining skills shortages and temporary working visas.
The complexities of Australia's work visa system was laid bare as employment services, unions and industry bodies made their submissions.
Industry groups said skills shortages were rampant in the regions and the visa system continued to struggle to meet the immediate business needs.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Dr Daniel Gschwind told Senators many tourism operators relied on 'backpacker visas', with 4 per cent of their employees on working holiday visas.
He said other industries, including hospitality, also relied on skilled migrant visas.
Dr Gschwind admitted there had been underpayment and exploitation of backpacker workers, saying "we know we have work to do to make our industry attractive".
Tourism providers have also been struck by the skill shortage, Dr Gschwind said.
He told the inquiry about a hot air ballooning company that was forced to collapse as a result of not being able to find skilled workers
"You can't wait two or three years for a result."
He said the temporary visa system offered migrant workers little opportunities for permanent residency or Australian citizenship, which he believes is undermining the nation's attractiveness for foreign workers.
"If you close that door you block off the people you most want to attract."
He said businesses that systematically underpaid their workers should be "drummed out of the industry".
Union representatives were also critical of the visa system, especially the "revolving doors" of temporary workers in the meat processing industry.
Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union representatives said rogue employers had exploited the visas - ignoring the local workforce, undercut pay and undermined workplace conditions.
AMIEU Queensland Assistant Secretary Ian McLauchlan told Senate representatives that "balance needs to be restored" into the temporary skilled visa system.
They told the inquiry that young people were being ignored by "there's got to be some balance to give young people are go".
When asked by Senators about the requirement to advertise the jobs to Australians, before seeking visa workers, the union representatives scoffed and said "Oh mate. They just put an ad in the paper".
The union representatives claimed industries would automatically dismiss the resumes of local workers, after superficial attempts to hire local workers.
Employment services representatives were similarly critical of some businesses for ignoring people actively job-seeking.
Despite working with 1500-1700 unemployed people actively looking for work as part of Community Solutions Mackay, Greg Rose said he saw jobs not filled daily.
He said the skills shortage affected his our clients every day.
Mr Rose said he was surprised about the claims of a regional skills shortage, saying "I'm at a bit of a loss that they can't fill those jobs".
While some businesses had been proactive in training new workers, Mr Rose was critical of companies that "just want to pick the perfect employee off the tree". He believes employers are not taking advantage of subsidies given for hiring job-active clients.
He highlighted the hard work of some businesses, including the abattoir Thomas Borthwick and Sons who had actively reskilled transitioning unemployed people, especially full-time parents, back onto the workfloor.
The Senate inquiry will continue in Sydney and Perth.
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