More details of how the Australian government plans to work with employers to bring in skilled temporary worker to cope with the country's mining boom have been released.
Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) are being brought in to help the resource sector meet its skills needs in the coming years.
The 'Mining boom Mark II' brings an unprecedented level of investment and opportunity to Australia, according to officials as there will simply not be enough Australian workers to get the job done.
There is $380 billion of new investment planned for resource projects and this is projected to lead to a shortage of 36,000 trade's people by 2015. This impact will not just be felt in the outback of Western Australia and Queensland but also in our major cities, as workers are attracted to jobs in mining.
To meet this important challenge, the government says it will implement all of the recommendations of the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce report. One of these 31 recommendations is to introduce (EMAs).
These agreements will be one way to help the resource sector meet its needs but not on a new visa. Officials describe then as 'an umbrella agreement to bring in temporary skilled workers from overseas'.
These agreements will include training measures to reduce the reliance on overseas workers, and increase the skills of the Australian workforce, evidence that there are genuine skills shortages in the local area, and demonstrated efforts to use Australian workers first.
EMAs will be for 'mega' projects only of at least $2 billion to build and employ more than 1,500 workers. 'It is crucial that construction on these projects is not delayed due to the lack of key skilled workers. This is because each additional job in the resources sector may lead to a further three jobs in other industries. Skills shortages in the resources sector can quickly spread to our major cities,' said a spokesman for the Labour Market Branch within the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
'Access to overseas workers under EMAs will help to ensure the workforce needs of these projects are met, ensuring economic and employment benefits for all Australians can be realised. This will be done without undercutting local wages,' he explained.
'This is because all overseas workers employed under EMAs will be on 457 visas. The 457 programme is efficient for business without undermining local opportunities. Subclass 457 visa holders must be paid at least as well as an Australian doing the same job,' he added.
The average salary for a 457 visa holder working in the mining industry is $122 000 but this does not take into account any allowances or bonuses. Subclass 457 visa holders must be paid superannuation.
Each EMA project owner will also have to demonstrate the genuine need for overseas workers. However, requiring each and every contractor to repeat this process would be a waste of time and create unnecessary red tape.