PEAK wool grower body, WoolProducers Australia, has assured its members there has been no official increase in the award for shearers and shed hands, despite an increased pay rate proposal put before contractors.
WoolProducers said the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia (SCAA) has put a non-binding recommendation to its members of a 15 percent increase in the pay rate for a 60-day period.
Sheep Central was told last month that shearing contractors were being surveyed about setting viable above-award rates for their experienced shearers and shedhands as the Australian Workers Union also called for a lift in shearer pays.
Due to COVID-19 New Zealand worker and interstate travel restrictions, Australian shearers are being lured from contractor teams with offers of up to $6-$7-plus cash to shear sheep, with “tucker thrown in”. The pay offers have sometimes been more than double the national pastoral award rate of around $3.25/sheep and contrast to a contractor’s rate to producers, including payment of shed hands, classer, and cook, WorkCover, insurance and GST, of close to $9 per sheep.
Shearing Contractors of Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford told Sheep Central last month the SCAA is circulating a survey about setting a recommended “viable” above-award rate for experienced employees of association members.
“It would be a recommendation and certainly not a legally binding agreement like an enterprise bargaining agreement or similar, but would be above the award.”
WoolProducers chief executive officer Jo Hall said as has been widely reported, parts of Australia are experiencing a significant shortage in shearers at the moment, which in turn has seen above award rates being paid to secure shearers.
The Fair Work Commission is the relevant body responsible for changes to any award and has a standard process which must be followed to apply for changes, WPA said.
“The current situation of wool growers having to pay above award rates is a completely commercial arrangement between the wool grower and shearers or shearing contractors but there is no legal obligation for growers to be paying above the award,” Ms Hall said.
“However, unfortunately for growers there are simply not enough shearers to do the job at this point in time and as with any supply and demand situation, the market must pay what is required to get the job done,” she said.
WoolProducers said it was co-ordinating efforts with relevant industry stakeholders at a national level and has been working constructively with the SCAA, Western Australian Shearing Industry Association, National Farmers Federation, Australian Wool Innovation and shearer trainers to work on medium- and longer-term strategies to address attraction and retention issues in the wool harvesting sector.