National Farmers' Federation

AWU should stick to its knitting, leave shearing to the experts

The National Farmers’ Federation has counselled the Australian Workers Union to get the facts before grandstanding on issues they clearly know nothing about.  

“Ill-informed claims about the underpayment of shearers are baseless and reek of shameful opportunism, a pattern of behaviour that unfortunately, during the pandemic, we have come to expect from the AWU,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

Mr Mahar said COVID-19-induced border restrictions had resulted in a worsening shearer shortage, with anecdotal reports of farmers offering well above award rates to get the clip off.

“Usually, the Australian shearing workforce is supported by international teams, particularly from New Zealand. COVID-19 has made this difficult, leaving Aussie shearers with a much bigger task.

“In stark contrast to the AWU’s halfcocked comments, reports are that farmers are offering up to $1 above the award rate of $3.26 per sheep to get the job done.”

Mr Mahar said the declining number of Australians taking up shearing was an ongoing challenge. 

“The NFF and Wool Producers Australia continue to work collaboratively with the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia on ways to attract new entrants. 

“If the AWU is seriously interested in the future of the shearing industry, we’d encourage them to engage with this work – a much more productive approach than lobbing cheap shots from their Sydney CBD headquarters about a profession and an industry they are obviously yet to understand.” 

Mr Mahar said the latest stunt was nothing more than a self-serving membership drive, that was likely to backfire.

“Woolgrowers and shearers are reliant on each other for their livelihoods and continue to take a unified approach to addressing the current challenges.

“The AWU should stick to its knitting, until its representatives are ready to be constructive about the future of Australia’s shearers,” Mr Mahar said. 

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