Wool classers’ survey highlights poor workplace conditions

Sheep Central, May 29, 2023

A WOOL classer survey has highlighted that a poor and unsafe workplace environment in the industry is impacting its ability to attract and retain new staff.

The Australian Wool Exchange has 14,500-plus registered wool classers, but for the past 15 years about 500 wool classers every year have not renewed their registration.

AWEX’s survey was undertaken to explore what, factors might be influencing the steady decline in trained and registered wool classers, the marketing services organisation said in a release from AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave last week.

AWEX received 356 responses in the survey, or 4.2 percent of the 8300 professional classer and Masterclasser cohort. The survey invited all professional classers and Masterclassers to have their say.

The survey found that culture is the key when it comes to attracting, training and retaining wool harvesting staff.

Mr Grave said the Australian wool industry’s global reputation of having the best prepared wool in the world is due to the level of trained, skilled and experienced staff in the wool shed.

“The availability of trained and skilled staff is under increasing pressure and attracting the next generation of wool shed staff is a serious concern for the industry.

“What is pleasing is the increasing number of women working in the wool industry, at all levels, and this is a positive influence,” he said.

AWEX said a clear message from classers via the survey is that they are passionate and proud of the wool industry and the part they play in it. About 95pc would recommend the wool industry as an industry to pursue as a career.

However, the classers identified key areas that detract from what is generally considered a positive environment, including:

  • Facilities: Inadequate and poorly maintained facilities impacting on shed safety was highlighted as a risk that must be addressed. Simple maintenance of the wool shed and WHS briefings before a shed starts would have an immediate and lasting impact on the wool shed work force and culture.

Providing secure toilets, showers & accommodation, lunch and wash-up facilities; regardless of the gender of the team, is a must to improve the wool shed environment.

  • Culture: The wool industry is not immune from general societal issues such as drugs and alcohol, harassment and bullying. Classers expressed concern that the industry must be proactive in meeting these challenges head on and address them in an ongoing atmosphere of support.

AWEX said these issues require a united approach to ensure that the clear message of zero tolerance is supported across industry.

In undertaking this survey, AWEX said it is aware that the views expressed are from the perspective of the classer in the wool shed. The participants; however, reflect a fair representation of age, gender, experience and location to that of the national profile of wool classers.

AWEX said maintaining a positive and safe culture in the wool shed is paramount to attracting new staff to the wool industry. Messages of zero tolerance are important to signal the level of concern and seriousness we, as an industry, have towards issues that impact the culture and future of the wool shed workforce, the body said.

“It is imperative that these issues are discussed and acted upon. AWEX will be working with industry bodies and associations to develop awareness and structures to support and drive a positive culture and environment,” AWEX said.

Source – AWEX.


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  1. Don Mudford, May 30, 2023

    This is a very important issue. It is very important that staff have adequate facilities for a safe and clean work place to a suitable standard. It is also very difficult to have all sheds up to adequate standard if only a couple of days of work are carried out in that shed each year. Maybe some of the AWI wool tax with matching dollars from government could be directed toward this. Better basic facilities would attract and keep staff who generate this important national income that is turned over 16 times in the local economy. A great investment by government.

  2. Andrew Farran, May 29, 2023

    This item discusses ongoing critical issues for the industry that cannot be neglected if it is to have a future. This is no time to be standing still, let alone going backwards.

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