Fast-food industry labour agreement up in flames

Yesterday, Immigration and Border Force Minister, Peter Dutton, announced the end to the Fast Food Industry Labour Agreement. In his media release, he takes aim at the Opposition for creating this arrangement in the first place.

Labour agreements are separately negotiated agreements with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to sponsor overseas workers for a Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa when standard temporary migration scheme, namely the Standard Business Sponsorship, is not available. Usually, a business seeks a labour agreement when the occupations sought are not on the Consolidated Skilled Occupation List (CSOL) or when the business is attempting to seek concessions that are unavailable for a Standard Business Sponsor, such as for salary, or English language requirements.

There are a few categories of labour agreements:

  • On-hire labour agreements: For businesses wishing to on-hire overseas workers in approved occupations,
  • Company-specific labour agreements: Developed directly with the business entity, and
  • Industry labour agreements: Templated agreements for a particular industry with certain terms unable to be excluded.

It is the fast-food industry labour agreement that has ceased. The industry labour agreement "Key Settings", which are still available to be viewed on the DIBP’s website was for two occupations: Retail Managers (ANZSCO: 142111) and Retail Supervisors (ANZSCO: 6251511), both of which are not on the CSOL.

The DIBP states that companies with existing labour agreements that are currently in place will not be affected, however, they will not be able to be renewed after they have been terminated or expired. Fast-food businesses still requiring labour agreements will still be able to apply for one, however, they will need to do this through a company-specific labour agreement.

Where does this leave fast-food businesses? The only option besides a company-specific labour agreement is the permanent Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa under the Direct Entry Stream and in the occupation of Retail Manager (ANZSCO: 142111) only. This is because it is on the approved list of occupations to be nominated. There are obviously many other requirements needed to be met, one of which is that the position is located in regional Australia.

Labour agreements are not for the fainthearted, and businesses should be counselled on how onerous the application process can be. Although they are no fees to apply, they involve a lot of evidence to demonstrate the business cannot find a suitable Australian worker, and many concessions seeking to depart from the normal Standard Business Sponsorship and 457 nomination applications will not be accepted. Labour agreements generally require the same, if not more sponsor obligations, and processing times are usually measured in months, not weeks. They should be considered only in exceptional circumstances for larger businesses, with multiple vacancies, and in occupations infamous for its chronic labour market shortages.