Australia’s largest beef producer to employ Indian workers

Melbourne: Anticipating hardships in finding skilled workers onshore, the largest beef producer of the continent, Australia Agriculture Co (AAco), may recruit hundreds of Indian workers for its new abattoir in the country’s north.

“India will be key, but of course we have a relationship with IFFCO which kills about 3.5 million buffaloes a year. So we have a bit of access to the skills there,” AAco chief executive David Farley told The Australian Financial Review.

The statement is taken as an indication that there would be some recruitment from Malaysia too as IFFCO, the major shareholder of AAco, is based there.

The company is expecting trade unions to create hassles for the new project planned to be established at Darwin in Northern Territory.

“If we go into this project with fear of unions and industrial problems, then I shouldn’t be starting this project,” Farley said.

“We want to run a safe, fair and equitable plant that offers long-term employment opportunities for people. Therefore we need a productive workforce. If we go into this project with that philosophy, we will be there for a long time,” Farley said.

AAco has been involved in stoushes with trade unions in the past. Its chairman, Donald McGauchie, also played a significant role in the national waterfront dispute two decades ago.

The trade unions have already started expressing concerns about the Darwin abattoir project and the AAco plans to bring in workers from India.

“Obviously we want businesses to open but there has got to be a process in place whereby the first step is not to go overseas,” Unions NT president Heinz Schmitt said, commenting on AAco’s plans about the Indian workers.

The new meat processing facility would need 260 workers to operate the AUD 80 million plant. Most beef products would be exported to the US, South Korea and Indonesia.

Besides India, AAco may also get workers from countries like Malaysia (where major shareholder IFFCO is based) and Indonesia. AAco has previous experience in flying in workers directly from overseas.

“We’ve had great experience recently in running our feedlots with staff out of the Philippines. In Darwin, we tend to run a programme bringing in Indonesian slaughter-men on a training programme.

“Through one of AAco’s major shareholders, (we) have access to good meat-works staff out of India,” Farley had told shareholders at a conference earlier.

“We can fly staff direct into Darwin from Mumbai or Delhi for $618,” he said.

“We’re looking at skilling, from an international as well as a domestic perspective,” he had added.

Although most of the developed countries are experiencing recession, Australian employers are struggling to find skilled workers due to a China- and India- driven resources boom.

As most Australian and foreign skilled workers are making a beeline to the mining sector, manufacturers are facing a tough time finding workers ready to work on comparative low wages.

The mining boom has created an unlikely skills shortage in Australia, thus playing a significant role in the closure of many large manufacturing and servicing plants.

If AAco gets a nod from the Australian Immigration Department, the Indian workers are likely to be imported on subclass 457 visas.