24 Dec 2008

Meat industry eyes RSE labour scheme

6:07 am on 24 December 2008

The meat industry is looking at the horticulture sector to consider whether seasonal employment arrangements for orchards and vineyards could help meat plants with perennial labour shortages.

Fruit, vegetable and grape growers have access to the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, which allows them to meet shortages by hiring workers from Pacific Island countries.

Some meat companies have also been bringing in workers from overseas to fill seasonal gaps in their workforce, but they have to operate under a system that requires ministerial approval.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says the process is too drawn out. The meat industry employs 23,000 - 24,000 people and Mr Ritchie says it would need fewer than 1000 additional workers in a season.

The association says the labour shortage is costing more than $1 million per plant in some cases.