Tourism industry the focus of new immigration agreement

Date: Feb 02, 2012

With the increase in demand for workers from resource projects around the country, skilled and semi-skilled workers in other sectors have been flocking to the mining sector.

In addition, the new levels of immigration in this sector have pushed up the population of certain sectors - leading to a rise in the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

However, the local industry is suffering a little bit of a slump in terms of sourcing staff members, perhaps due to both the growth in mining and the dip in international student numbers experienced in recent years.

On top of that, the high comparative value of the Australian dollar means that the industry is facing reduced profit margins.

According to Tourism Accommodation Australia managing director Rodger Powell, the mining sector was able to provide hospitality workers with higher wages, pricing tourism businesses out of the picture

Powell told the Financial Review on January 25: "We already have the highest labour cost structure in the world - we can't afford to pay any more."

For an industry that delivers approximately $35 billion a year towards GDP, a shortage in skilled labour could have wide-reaching consequences.

According to the minister for tourism Martin Ferguson, this situation could change if a new blanket migration agreement could be developed.

Ferguson explained: "Research has found that there are already 36,000 vacancies in this industry and by 2015 another 56,000 workers will be required, particularly in regional areas."

In a joint release with the minister for immigration and citizenship Chris Bowen, a public discussion paper has been prepared to gain valuable insight into the possible directions taken by such an agreement.

Bowen described how certain positions - such as professional waiters, bartenders, chef and managers - could be tough to fill locally, as the Australian market for experienced staff was extremely tight.

"This template seeks a balance between upholding the standards of the visa system while giving employers easier access to workers whose skills are hard to find in Australia," said Bowen.

"Approved employers could nominate workers for temporary skilled subclass 457 visas using the template, enabling workers to be granted visas where they meet the requirements."

The immigration minister also explained that the business owners would still be required to pay market rates and show that they were committed to hiring and training local staff - using the agreement after exhausting other avenues.

When the design process for the blanket agreement is complete, firms in the hospitality industry will be able to make use of the services of a lawyer in immigration to draw up the necessary documentation to hire international workers.