Restaurant (Fine Dining) Industry Labour Agreement approved

Restaurant and Catering Australia recently released a statement confirming that there a Restaurant (Fine Dining) Labour Agreement has been negotiated with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to assist in the estimated 56,000 worker shortfall the sector is currently experiencing. It has been long held that the hospitality industry (particularly in regional areas) has suffered because of a lack of available skilled labour.

Any ideas that this would turn into a free-for-all for businesses in the hospitality industry will probably prove to be false. In the statement it details that businesses will need to meet a number of criteria such as:

  • Offering an la carte menu;
  • Requiring all staff to be uniformed;
  • Employing a maître d’; and
  • Achieving industry recognition through award programmes.

There is most likely other requirements that are expected to be met in line with application for 457 visas under the Standard Business Sponsorship arrangement including meeting a training benchmark and labour marketing testing.

Briefly, labour agreements are separate work agreement between the applicant (business or organisation) and the DIBP. In most cases labour agreement are used for large organisations to be able to on-hire overseas workers (which is prohibited under a Standard Business Sponsorship) or for a business to be able to nominate occupations that are not on the Skilled or Consolidated Occupation Lists. While there is the ability to be able to negotiate a number of concessions with the DIBP, these are difficult, and in most cases the final agreement will have a number of similar and in some cases more sponsor obligations as with the Standard Business Sponsorship regime.

The benefits of this labour agreement is that it will allow chefs, cooks and most importantly trade waiters to be sponsored, with an additional concession of at most 10 percent of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), which is currently $53,900 per annum. This means that employers may be able to pay sponsored workers less under this agreement than a Standard Business Sponsorship and might be able to set wages according to the relevant industry award if that pay level meets this new minimum hurdle. In general, most industry awards fall short of the TSMIT. The ability to nominate trade waiters for a 457 visa is probably the most crucial aspect of this agreement as it is not an approved occupation to nominate as a Standard Business Sponsor.

No further details have been released, including the exact requirements and how to apply, and it is expected that the scrutiny on applications for access to this labour agreement will be substantial.