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The government has announced the introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs), a new temporary migration initiative to help address the skill needs of the resource sector.
EMAs are a custom-designed, project-wide migration arrangement suited to the resource sector. EMAs ensure that skill shortages do not create constraints on major projects and jeopardise Australian jobs. EMAs help major resource projects to access labour from outside of Australia to cover genuine skill vacancies that cannot be filled from within the Australian labour market.
National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce
The National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce (NRSET) was convened in late 2009 to help address the need for more than 70 000 skilled workers on major resources projects over the following five years.
Following the release of a discussion paper and call for submissions, the taskforce released its final report in July 2010
See: National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce
The report canvassed a range of recommendations across workforce planning and workforce participation, education and training, and community infrastructure. The government agreed to all 31 recommendations of the report.
See: Joint Media Release – Joint Media Release – Delivering skilled workers to the resources sector
With the construction phases of a number of major projects converging in coming years, the NRSET recognised that skill shortages are likely to emerge across a range of occupations—including in engineering and trades.
The NRSET noted that migration is only one tool for meeting Australia’s future skills needs and recommends the introduction of EMAs to increase access to labour outside Australia. This will help to ensure that the workforce needs of these projects can be met.
How will Enterprise Migration Agreements work?
An EMA is negotiated with the project owner and sets the terms by which workers outside Australia will be engaged on the project, as well as outlining training commitments that must be met by the project.
The terms set out in the EMA will include the occupations, qualifications and English language skills of the workers from outside Australia.
Sub-contracting employers, with the endorsement of the EMA holder, will sign onto labour agreements under the terms of the EMA, ensuring that responsibility for sponsorship obligations rests with the direct employer of the worker from outside Australia.
Who can get an Enterprise Migration Agreement?
EMAs are available to resources projects with capital expenditure of more than two billion dollars and a peak workforce of more than 1500 workers.
To be approved for an EMA, projects need to develop a comprehensive training plan, demonstrating how the project will invest in the up-skilling of Australians to meet future skill needs in the resources sector. This plan will need to set measurable targets for training that develops skills in occupations where there are known or anticipated shortages.
Labour from outside Australia will only be supplementary, with resources projects required to demonstrate effective, genuine and ongoing local recruitment efforts.
The department works with project owners to determine eligibility and interest in negotiating an EMA. A limited number of projects are eligible for an EMA. The department does not solicit applications.
Existing migration arrangements will continue to be available to these projects as well as resource projects that do not meet these thresholds, including five-day processing for decision-ready 457 visa applications as recommended by the NRSET.
What is the benefit of an Enterprise Migration Agreement?
EMAs take a project-wide approach to meeting skill needs. Therefore, rather than each sub-contractor having to negotiate their own labour agreement, the bulk of negotiation occurs with the project owner. This means project owners can plan their workforce needs from the outset, and there will be a straightforward process for sub-contractors to sign up to an individual labour agreement.
The department aims to negotiate agreements within three months from the time a project owner submits a complete request for an EMA. Labour agreements and visa applications associated with an EMA will be subject to expedited processing.
Under an EMA, occupations that are not eligible for standard migration programs can be sponsored, provided the project can justify a genuine need that cannot be met from the Australian labour market. This will be critical for resources projects, particularly during the construction phase.
What training requirements will apply for Enterprise Migration Agreements?
Project owners are required to demonstrate how the project will significantly contribute towards addressing future skill needs in the resources sector. As part of its training plan, the project owner needs to:
- commit to training in occupations of known or anticipated shortage
- commit to reducing reliance on labour from outside Australia over time, with particular focus on semi-skilled labour where this is approved for the EMA
- demonstrate that training strategies are commensurate with the size of the workforce from outside Australia utilised on a project
- demonstrate how training targets will be enforced through its contracting model and measured and monitored over the term of the EMA.
In addition, individual sub-contractors will need to meet one of the standard training benchmarks associated with the 457 program, either by:
- contributing two per cent of payroll to a relevant industry training fund
- spending one per cent of payroll on training for their Australian employees.
This contribution should be consistent with the broader training plan for the project.
What about the Resources Sector Jobs Board?
On 25 May 2012, the government announced the creation of a Resources Sector Jobs Board.
The board will display job vacancies in the resources sector and enable Australians to apply for jobs advertised on projects with an EMA.
All 457 sponsors, whether under an EMA or not, have to attest to having a strong record of, or a demonstrated commitment to, employing local labour and non-discriminatory employment practices. The board provides a way for EMA holders to show they have made genuine attempts to recruit Australian workers before recruiting workers from outside Australia.
As with any employer, it will not be compulsory to recruit people from the board, or from any other source, where they do not meet the business’ skill requirements or applicable Australian licensing criteria.
What protections are in place to ensure workers from outside Australia are not exploited?
Workers from outside Australia sponsored under an EMA will hold 457 visas and will be subject to the Worker Protection Act 2009.
Direct employers will need to comply with sponsorship obligations, including paying Australian market salary rates. This means workers from outside Australia cannot be used to undercut Australian working conditions.
Employers who do not comply with sponsorship obligations will be subject to sanctions such as a bar on sponsoring further workers from outside Australia or termination of the labour agreement.
Where there is evidence of widespread abuse, contractual sanctions in an EMA will allow the department to suspend or cancel an EMA (and associated agreements).
Workers from outside Australia will need to demonstrate English language proficiency and the skills and experience necessary to perform the occupation in Australia. Relevant licensing or registration requirements will also apply.
What consultation has occurred in the development of EMAs?
Over 40 stakeholders in the resources sector have been consulted on the policy development for EMAs, including:
- federal and state government agencies
- business peak bodies
- major employers in the hard rock and oil and gas industries
- trade unions.
Ongoing consultation will occur through the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration, a government advisory body with representatives from business, state governments and unions.
What about recommendation 4.1. of the NRSET report?
In recommendation 4.1., the NRSET recommended that the department finalise 457 applications from the resources sector within five working days of a complete application being lodged.
All resources projects, regardless of their association with an EMA, are eligible for five-day processing of complete applications for temporary skilled migration.
As part of the budget, the government also announced additional funding to reduce processing times for all 457 visa applications, recognising the important role this program plays in helping Australian businesses in other industries.
Currently, the median processing time for a 457 application is approximately 17 days. This is a reduction of 58 per cent from 2006–07.
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 48a. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed June 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2011.