Livestock SA hit back at Australian Workers Union claims

RESPONSE: Skilled shearers valued by SA wool industry following concerns raised by a national union body. Photo: Shutterstock
RESPONSE: Skilled shearers valued by SA wool industry following concerns raised by a national union body. Photo: Shutterstock

Livestock SA has backed the crucial role shearers play within the state's farm businesses and defended wool growers who value the work, amid concerns raised by a national union body.

The response comes this week as Livestock SA aimed to correct the Australian Workers Union's recent comments made over pay rates and shearing numbers.

In a media release issued by the AWU, it stated that "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 further highlighted there had not been a shortage of shearers in 2020.

But Livestock SA president Joe Keynes, who labelled the statements as false, said 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 shared.

Furthermore, the Union is calling for the award rate for shearers to be increased by at least one dollar for every sheep they shear.

It says the increase from $3.26 a head to $4.26 would boost wages by several hundred dollars a week and also help shearing contractors across NSW who are struggling to find workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic

In South Australia, Mr Keynes said there had been a serious shearer shortage due to COVID-19 restrictions with many farmers 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."

He further highlighted that during COVID-19 some producers paid a "great deal more" than the award rate to have shearers in sheds and completing the season on time.

"Producers are also focused on investing in improving their sheds and facilities to attract good shearers."

Meanwhile, Mr Keynes said there were great career opportunities for young people in shearing in South Australia.

"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," he added.

This story Livestock SA defend wool industry first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.