The development of the Restaurant (Fine Dining) Industry Labour Agreement will help to address chronic labour shortages gripping the hospitality sector, says Restaurant & Catering Australia.
The Agreement has been negotiated with the federal government for the positions of cook and chef, and will also include trade waiters following the national endorsement of the occupation. It provides a tailored skilled migration arrangement for employers with specific occupation needs, defining employer obligations and the skills, qualifications and English language requirements overseas workers must meet in order to work in Australia.
R&CA CEO John Hart said the labour agreement has come at a critical time for the sector.
“The sector is currently experiencing a shortfall of 56,000 workers. Employment growth in the cafe, restaurant and take away food services sector will require an additional 43,700 jobs by November 2018. The rate of employment growth in this sector is expected to be higher than any other sector in the Australian economy, growing at around 8.5 percent,” he said.
“R&CA’s 2015 Benchmarking Survey found that 58.9 percent of businesses currently have vacancies with 24.6 percent indicating they were having extreme difficulty finding staff. Chefs, Cooks and Restaurant Managers ranked as the most difficult vacancies to fill.
“R&CA has long advocated for a labour agreement that will streamline migration processes and provide businesses with access to semi- and high-skilled labour.”
Under the agreement, businesses will be required to meet a set of criteria in order to access skilled staff including having an la carte menu, having uniformed staff and a matre d’, and having achieved industry recognition through award programs.
The agreement will also provide a concession on the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) of 10 percent, in-line with recommendations of the independent review of the 457 visa program.
“This moderate concession means it will be more feasible for operators to hire overseas workers, should they be able to demonstrate they have experienced prolonged vacancies in their businesses,” Hart said.
“With skilled migration also comes job creation for local Australians. The reality is most businesses find it difficult to remain open when they cannot find suitably trained staff. The facilitation of a small number of skilled workers under this agreement will ensure businesses remain open, are productive, and have the capacity to hire and train local workers.
In 2014-15, the Accommodation and Food Services industry was the largest user of the 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa program, with 4,350 applications granted. Cooks, Caf and Restaurant Managers, and Chefs ranked in the top 15 nominated occupations for primary applications in 2014-15.
“The more we embrace skilled migration and blend the experience of these workers with that of our local workforce, I have no doubt our sector will continue to go from strength to strength,” said Hart.