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Enterprise Migration Agreements - Commonwealth Budget (2011-2012)

The contents of this article are correct as at 25 May 2011.

The government has announced the introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs)—a new temporary migration initiative to help address the skill needs of the resource sector.

EMAs will be a custom-designed, project-wide migration arrangement suited to the resource sector. Its aim is to ensure that skill shortages do not create constraints on major projects while at the same time, not adversely impacting Australian employees. Through EMAs, major resource projects will be able to access overseas labour for genuine skill vacancies that cannot be filled from the Australian labour market.

How will EMAs work?

An EMA will be a project-wide labour agreement, custom-designed for a particular resource project.  An EMA will be negotiated with the project owner and will act as an umbrella arrangement for the project.  The EMA will set the terms by which overseas workers will be engaged on the project, as well as outlining training commitments that must be met by the project.

The terms set out in the EMA will include the occupations, qualifications, English language skills, wages and conditions of the foreign workers on the project.

Sub-contracting employers, with the endorsement of the EMA holder, will sign onto labour agreements under the terms of the EMA, ensuring that responsibility for sponsorship obligations rests with the direct employer of the overseas worker.

Who can get an EMA?

EMAs will be available to resources projects with capital expenditure of more than two billion dollars and a peak workforce of more than 1500 workers.

To be approved for an EMA, projects will need to develop a comprehensive training plan, demonstrating how the project will invest in the up-skilling of Australians to meet future skill needs in the resources sector.  This plan will need to set measurable targets for training that develops skills in occupations where there are known or anticipated shortages. 

Overseas labour will only be supplementary, with resources projects required to demonstrate effective and ongoing local recruitment efforts.

DIAC will work with project owners to determine eligibility and interest in negotiating an EMA.  A limited number of projects are eligible for an EMA.

Existing migration arrangements will continue to be available to these projects as well as resource projects that do not meet these thresholds.

What is the benefit of an EMA?

EMAs will take a project-wide approach to meeting skill needs. Rather than each sub-contractor having to negotiate their own labour agreement, the bulk of negotiation will occur with the project owner. This means that project owners can plan their workforce needs from the outset, and there will be a straightforward process for sub-contractors to sign up to an individual labour agreement.

DIAC aims to negotiate the agreements within three months from the time a project owner submits a complete request for an EMA.  Labour agreements and visa applications associated with an EMA will be subject to expedited processing.

Under an EMA, occupations that are not eligible for standard migration programs can be sponsored, provided the project can justify a genuine need that cannot be met from the Australian labour market.  This will be critical for resources projects, particularly during the construction phase.

What training requirements will apply for an EMA?

Project owners will be required to demonstrate how the project will significantly contribute towards addressing future skill needs in the resources sector.  As part of its training plan, the project owner will need to:

  • Commit to training in occupations of known or anticipated shortage
  • Commit to reducing reliance on overseas labour over time, with particular focus on semi-skilled labour where this is approved for the EMA
  • Demonstrate that training strategies are commensurate with the size of the overseas workforce utilised on a project
  • Demonstrate how training targets will be enforced through its contracting model and measured and monitored over the term of the EMA

In addition, individual sub-contractors will need to meet one of the standard training benchmarks associated with the 457 program, either by:

  • Contributing two per cent of payroll to a relevant industry training fund or
  • Spending one per cent of payroll on training for their Australian employees.

If you have any questions about EMAs please click this link to contact Visa Lawyers Australia.