LIVESTOCK SA has hit back at an inflammatory statement from the Australian Workers Union - saying farmers can normally get away with paying below award rates to shearers because they bring in 500 workers each year from New Zealand - by calling on the AWU to work with the Australian wool industry, not against it.
In a statement from Livestock SA, the industry advocacy body said the AWU should support shearers by recognising the value and respect woolgrowers have for them and their important role in farm businesses.
The AWU recently issued a media release in which AWU NSW vice president Ron Cowdrey said "farmers and pastoralists are normally able to get away with paying below award rates because they bring in around 500 workers each year from New Zealand". It also said there had not been a shortage of shearers in 2020.
Livestock SA President Joe Keynes said these statements were incorrect and farmers and pastoralists abide by the award rates.
"South Australian producers value skilled shearers and most pay above the pastoral award rate to secure the shearers of their choice," Mr Keynes said.
"There has been a serious shearer shortage in SA due to COVID-19 restrictions and many farmers having been struggling to find shearers because of fewer coming in from New Zealand.
"Producers have been concerned about the animal welfare risk the shearer shortage poses and are doing all they can to not delay shearing.
"During COVID, some producers have been paying a great deal more than the award rate to ensure they can get shearers on their property, so shearing is completed in a timely manner.
"Producers are also focused on investing in improving their sheds and facilities to attract good shearers."
Mr Keynes said there were great career opportunities for young people in shearing in SA.
"The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia has taken over shearer training which had led to an increased number of young shearers into the industry," he said.
"A young shearer on the base award rate, shearing 100 sheep a day can make a good amount of money a week.
"For those doing more than 100 sheep a day, they may be making over $64,000 a year as well as the opportunities to travel for work."
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