A team from the Approved Employers of Australia is in Honiara this week as part of consultations with the Solomon Islands government.
The members of the Association were accompanied to Honiara by Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency, Robert Sisilo and met with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade.
Concerns over a new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Approved Employer Deed and Guidelines was among the reason for the visit by the Association who will be also visiting other sending countries under the PALM Scheme to share their concerns.
Executive Officer of the Approved Employers Association, Steve Burdette said the changes made to the Deeds, Guidelines and settings would have a big impact on the recruitment of workers from the Pacific and Timor Leste.
One of the issues of concern within the new Deeds and Guidelines was for Approved Employers to offer workers a minimum of 30 hours per week, every week.
“We need flexibility in regards to the 30 hours per week requirement,” he added.
There is also the issue of Pay parity where Approved Employers are required to pay PALM workers in line with other workers at the same workplace (i.e. with workers with the same skill level and experience doing the same job). Approved Employers are then required to provide evidence of pay parity (via submitted Recruitment Plans and the Offer of Employment) and maintain pay parity for the duration of workers employment under PALM.
“These are some of the key concerns that we have brought over, concerns that we see could have an impact on a lot of the smaller growers who have been the real heart of the PALM scheme,” Mr. Burdette explained.
Apart from those, the Employers used the meetings to discuss other issues of mutual concern such as workers contract, deductions and welfare of workers and look at how both the Solomon Islands Government and Employers can jointly address them.
But more importantly, Mr Burdette said it is an opportunity to bolster closer relationship between Approved Employers and Solomon Islands as a sending country under the PALM Scheme.
“We feel that it is going to be very beneficial to have closer collaborations and communications to address the number of issues that we have faced.
“We are here also to celebrate a lot of the success we have in this program.
He said a lot of Solomon Islanders have done extremely well, came back and build houses for themselves and their people and educate their children as well.
The Approved Employers of Australia represents over 75 percent of workers in the horticulture industry under the PALM Scheme. It has over 64 employers registered under the Association.