In an effort to negotiate a new labour agreement for the hospitality industry, the Immigration Department is reviewing its strict English language requirements for foreign workers.
As part of a government-led inquiry into temporary workers, 457 visa holders must have “functional English”.
However, Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart said the hospitality industry is concerned the Immigration Department’s expectations for 457 visa holders are becoming too high.
“The reality is that most of the people coming into the business are cooks and chefs and many of the kitchens, especially in the ethnic cuisine, don’t use English at all,” he said, as reported by The Australian.
“The language of the kitchen is the language of the cuisine. It is not appropriate to set the bar so high where there’s no requirement for English in the workplace, particularly with cooks and chefs,” he said.
Austrade, which is responsible for the sector, has told the Productivity Commission the tourism and hospitality industry is facing a shortage of 56,000 workers next year unless foreign staff are introduced.
The Australian Trade Commission’s submission argued government needs to take a more flexible approach to the temporary 457 visas to pay hospitality workers market rates rather than the $53,900 base salary the scheme has set.
“Austrade recommends the Commission consider how the 457 visa could better enable access to skilled workers in demand for the tourism industry, particularly in regional and remote areas and during peak seasonal periods,” the submission said.
Separately, the Department is also evaluating an industry request to fast-track thousands more foreign chefs and cooks on temporary work visas.