Inflight catering company dnata Catering & Retail has come out against Federal Government plans to reintroduce caps on allowable working hours for international students.
From 1 July, work restrictions for subclass-500 student visa holders – which were suspended in January 2022 to address workforce shortages – will be reintroduced, with the cap increasing from 40 to 48 hours per fortnight. dnata has called on the Government to delay these changes for 18 months, saying they will produce a labour gap equivalent of 150 people.
According to Hiranjan Aloysius, Chief Executive Officer of dnata Catering & Retail Australia, this would impact the packing of 36,550 meals per week, or 150 weekly flights.
“dnata Catering & Retail currently employs over 350 student visa holders, which equates to 16 per cent of our workforce, all who make a significant contribution to our company and the aviation and retail industries. Over 76 per cent of those currently work more than 48 hours a fortnight to cover their living expenses and tuition fees,” said Aloysius.
“The government’s plans to reduce student visa holders’ allowable working hours to an average of 24 hours a week will place an undue financial burden on our hard-working, and highly trained employees who make up our business. We fully support our employees and understand the significant stress and pressure this visa change brings.”
Speaking to ABC Drive, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said that performing full-time work was “not an appropriate use” of a student visa.
“They’re either here as students or they’re here as workers. They have come here on a student visa, they’re meant to be getting a good quality education here in our country, and they’re not going to be able to do that if they’re working full time,” she said.
“As of 1 July, the limitation will go from working 40 hours a week, which is what the COVID measure was, drawing it back to 24 hours a week. So that’s basically three eight-hour shifts that you can do a week as an international student. And that’s the right balance that we’ve reached in discussion with unions, with businesses, and with the university sector.”
Aloysius says the Government should take a “considered approach” to the visa overhaul, including “substantial support and commitment to plug employment gaps”.
“We are proud to be an integral part of the aviation industry in Australia, providing catering services for over 79% of flights per year in Australia. The aviation industry was one of the first to be impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and has been one of the last to recover,” he said.
“As we play a significant role in enabling Australians to travel again post-pandemic, the government’s proposed changes to the student visa working permissions will greatly limit our ability to meet the increasing demand for our services and contribute to the recovery of the industry.”