New labour agreement will aid citrus industry growth
28 January 2019
The new Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA) will prove beneficial to citrus businesses across Australia, helping them fill labour shortages and remain competitive on a world stage, according to Citrus Australia CEO, Nathan Hancock.
The HILA will enable approved businesses to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers from a select list of occupations (including irrigation designer, maintenance electrician and horticulture farm manager/section manager) to fill jobs where growers can demonstrate there are no local workers able or willing to fill them.
The HILA will become the largest and most comprehensive labour agreement in Australia following the acceptance of 31 occupations as well as important concessions, such as a reduction to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) and an option of three visas with pathways to permanent residency.
Growers will need to do a level of labour market testing in order to access workers via the HILA.
As the HILA is for semi-skilled and skilled workers, applicants must go through a skill assessment and be able to demonstrate relevant work experience depending on occupation they are applying for.
An important aspect of the HILA is that it will remain uncapped for most occupations which will mean growers will not be limited to a particular number of places under the agreement.
“Allowing the HILA to be demand-driven is a good win for industry,” Nathan said.
“When citrus businesses are unable to source the professional labour they need from within Australia, the HILA will enable them to find skilled people to fill positions in areas of management, specialist computing equipment, electricians, pest scouts and agronomists, amongst others.
“The new HILA is recognition that our businesses require skilled people to undertake technical and highly-skilled jobs to help drive their businesses, and the wider industry, forward.
“It will help growers source workers from overseas, as well as give the employer and employee the assurance of a workforce for longer than 12 months.”
The HILA is for semi-skilled and skilled positions and has not included lower-skilled positions such as pickers and packers. Growers are encouraged to look at the Working Holiday Maker program, Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme.
But more permanent roles where staff are required for longer than a harvest period, or the nine-month currency of a seasonal visa, are increasingly difficult to fill.
There are no applications fees to apply under the HILA (although there will be fees for the visa itself if successful).
The HILA will be reviewed annually so growers can provide feedback to Citrus Australia to contribute on their behalf.
Citrus Australia thanks AUSVEG for their leading role in securing this agreement.
For more information on the agreement and the roles list, visit the Home Affairs website here.