Govt economic stimulus plans to put more pressure on labour reserves: ACEA

ACEA said that while the current economic crisis would mean redundancies and financial losses for some industries, the consulting engineering industry remains relatively stable, with ACEA members reporting work remains steady and the skills shortage continues to be a problem.The group said the labour shortage in its sector was actually set to increase because the Australian government is responding to the financial crisis by bringing forward expenditure of the Building Australia’s Future (BAF) fund and injecting capital into residential and commercial buildings and infrastructure.“The need to be able to bring in highly skilled, highly paid professionals from overseas is the best short-term strategy to help Australian consulting firms deliver the ongoing projects,” ACEA chief executive Megan Motto said.She said ACEA supported the initial recommendation of a report by industrial relations commissioner Barbara Deegan on Subclass 457 work visa, but Motto questioned its subsequent recommendations. “The Deegan Report’s first recommendation states that Subclass 457 visa holders should have the same terms and conditions of employment as all other employees in the workplace,” Motto said. “The ACEA supports this premise entirely, however most of the subsequent 65 recommendations listed within the report are in complete contrast with this recommendation,” Motto said.“The same terms and conditions as other employees in the workplace does not entail having employer-paid income protection insurance, paid levies to enable the payment of health insurance and absconding costs, and being paid market rates when others are receiving an award rate.“The recommendation that employers maintain income protection insurance for 457 visa employees for the duration of their employment is of particular concern to the ACEA, and we question how exactly this will increase the integrity of the scheme,” Motto said.She said that for parity purposes, employers would be obliged to pay income protection for all their employees if this recommendation is accepted and implemented, with large firms up for costs of millions of dollars annually.“The reality is that businesses will not be able to absorb these significant costs resulting in businesses that really need access to immediate high level professional skills will be unable to use the scheme at all, projects will have to cease, and firms will not be afforded the ability to grow.“On average, two-thirds of firms across Australia are delaying or declining projects because they simply don’t have the available staff,” Motto said. “I am greatly concerned about the continued shortages of professional and paraprofessional engineering staff in Australia, especially when governments continue to pursue infrastructure spending as a means of stimulating the economy.“We must not forget that skilled labour is critical to any project’s success and without consulting engineers to design these projects, delays and cost blowouts will continue to impact on the success of Australia’s ambitious infrastructure plans,” she said.

Send this to a friend