Australian mines desperate for skilled workers

Mining companies in Australia are considering to fly foreign workers directly to their operations as the country, particularly the north-east state of Queensland, struggles to fill massive job shortages, reports local media outlet Adelaide Now.

Since the government launched the Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMA) in spring last year, however, a limited number of mining companies have applied for a portion of the budget set to tackle the lack of skilled labour by helping miners hire skilled workers from overseas.

EMA is a special type of labour contracts to address skill vacancies in major resource projects with capital expenditure greater than $2 billion and plans to hire an overall workforce of more than 1500 people.

Nine months after the plan was announced, only one company has applied for an EMA and the Regional Migration Agreement scheme, announced at the same time, is yet to publish the guidelines under which regional communities can apply to hire foreign workers, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

The West Australian Liberal senator Michaelia Cash said concerns had been raised by mining companies that the threshold for resource projects to qualify for the agreements had been set too high, and they wanted it lowered to 1000 workers. She also queried the role of trade unions in the approval process.

Several mining companies are currently in advanced negotiations with the Federal Government of South Australia, informed Adelaide Now, to replace the individual 457 visas with bulk temporary migration agreements to bring overseas labour into outback mines.

Kruno Kukoc, first assistant Secretary of Migration and Visa Policy, insists that is all about “getting the balance right for Australia’s future,” as first stated in a conference about immigration programs in September last year.

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