Australian restaurants are 'at risk' after 457 crackdown


London: Peter Dutton's crackdown on temporary workers from overseas could prevent the "next Jamie Oliver or Heston Blumenthal" showcasing their talents from Australia, the world's largest job search company Indeed has warned.

The company says it recorded a 10 per cent drop on searches almost instantaneously after the government announced its crackdown on foreign workers. Indeed said of the 4 million job searches during 2017 the greatest interest in jobs in the Australian hospitality industry came from Britain, not from non-English speaking countries. Indeed said it detected a 78 per cent increase in searches for Australian hospitality roles but that was now being undermined by the abolition of the 457 scheme.

Indeed warned that the tough changes risked Australia's hospitality industry with local employers set to suffer shortages of up to 120,000 by the end of the decade, with a shortfall of experienced restaurant and cafe managers, licensed club managers, cooks, bakers and pastry cooks to hire.

Indeed Australia-New Zealand managing director Chris McDonald said the government's abolition of the 457 scheme would make it harder for the hospitality industry to deliver high-quality services and grow Australia's reputation as a foodie destination.

"In some cases there were restrictions on chefs, cooks, bakers and managers and leading industry figures such as Neil Perry have raised concerns about barriers to hiring quality front-of-house staff that are critical to the success of quality restaurants," he said.

And he stressed that the greatest level of interest for hospitality jobs, comes from Britain. Indeed said interest from the UK had increased 45.65 per cent in the 6 months to May 2017 compared to the same time period the year before. Interest from India was up 87.8 per cent and the US was up 15.4 per cent.

"There are many industry similarities that make us compatible and of course there are no language barriers to overcome," Mr McDonald said. "Visa restrictions that make it more difficult to address legitimate skills shortages would not only undermine an area so important to the Australian economy, but could see us miss out on the talents of the next Jamie Oliver or Heston Blumenthal."

???Indeed's warning follows that of celebrity chef Neil Perry said last month that the changes could prevent restaurateurs from expanding and would ultimately affect delivery and services, jeopardising the reputation of Australia's dining scene.

Under the changes the government announced in April, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the 457 scheme would be scrapped and replaced with a much stricter temporary work scheme saying he wanted to "put Australian jobs first." The old four-year visa was changed to a two-year visa with the option of two years with no pathway to permanent residency.

???Australian workers 'not as reliable' as overseas staff

Federico Sirito manages Da Orazio Pizza in Bondi and said Australian workers simply either didn't often apply to work at his restaurant and if they did, did not prove to be as reliable workers as overseas workers.

"They don't have the same work philosophy as we have, especially in hospitality, they call in sick twice a week. In my experience, I've never seen something like that before, so frequently," he said.

Mr Sirito said his experience of Australian hospitality workers was the same in fine-dining restaurants he has also worked in in Australia.

He said the changes were already taking its toll on the industry and urged the government to keep the old system. "It's already harder [to hire workers] now," he said.

Mr Sirito said he is contemplating going home in the next few months, like many of his European friends.

"I think most people are doing this and I've got a lot of friends overseas who ask me 'how is the life here?' and I say 'it's amazing' but now with these visa changes, you do your two-year working holiday and then go away because there's no point to stay," he said.

"The people with more experience, they're looking for a 457 position maybe to get a future here, they're not incentivised to come here anymore because if they see from overseas there's no way to get permanent residency they're going to go somewhere else.

Last month Mr Dutton was confronted about the changes during a question and answer session at the Policy Exchange in London. Katrina Cooper from PWC said the changes had "pulled the mat" from her clients.

The Minister defended the changes saying the government had to look at the scheme because the public had lost confidence in the 457 system.

"We made a decision around the 457 program because the brand of the 457 program had become toxic in the public's mind," he said.

"We didn't abolish that program and replace it with nothing, we replaced it with short and medium stream entry, so that people that would be your clients, there would be ample opportunity for them to come through the medium stream which in certain circumstances can result in a permanent outcome," he said.

"Now the question in part is whether you need to offer Australian citizenship to somebody to fill a job in Australia and I think because we have quite rigid labour laws, because we're a high-cost labour economy, I think the program for some employers had become a walk-around of the current rigidity in the labour market arrangements."

"Now the question is to try and find a happy place and I think there is the prospect of further change and innovation in the visa space ... particularly with sophisticated workers," he said.

"We'll continue to adjust those policy settings," he said.

According to the Department of Immigration, as of September there were 96,000 foreign workers in Australia with about a quarter from India, nearly 20 per cent from Britain and 6 per cent from China.

This story Australian restaurants are 'at risk' after 457 crackdown first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.