Summer shearers clipped from the workforce


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20-04-2009 12:30 PM


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Radio National


20-04-2009 12:30 PM



20-04-2009 01:40 PM

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2009-04-20 12:30:11

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CAVE, Peter




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Summer shearers clipped from the workforce -

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Reporter: Emma Alberici

PETER CAVE: Each year, Britain relies on hundreds of Australian and New Zealand shearers who work
on UK farms in the summer.

But strict new visa requirements have stopped the flow of workers into Britain from outside the
European Union.

The UK is now faced with a critical shortage of shearers and the prospect of serious health and
welfare issues that emerge for the sheep if their fleece is not cut.

Europe correspondent Emma Alberici reports

(Sound of sheep: 'baaah')

EMMA ALBERICI: I'm at burnt house farm in East Sussex with Robert Morris who is the farmer here;
you hire in shearers.

ROBERT MORRIS: We hire shearers from Australia and New Zealand and we do contract shearing, and we
shear about 35,000 sheep in Kent and Sussex and we've run up, into all sorts of problems this year
with the new immigration system that's been introduced by our government at the end of last year.

EMMA ALBERICI: This was supposed to be a law as I understand it to make sure the UK doesn't attract

ROBERT MORRIS: That's right but these guys are far from being terrorists. They're professional
shearers, they come here from the 1st of May until the end of July and come the end of July they
want to be going back to their own countries to do shearing over there.

EMMA ALBERICI: Gladwyn Transem (phonetic) is one of them. He mows lawns in Brisbane during the
Australian summer, and works on Rob Morris's farm in East Sussex in the south of England, in the
European summer.

But not this year - he's decided it's all too hard.

GLADWYN TRANSEM: Oh just the hassle and all the things they want for you to get a permit to go in.
It's just too much hassle and I'm just not going to bother.

EMMA ALBERICI: It used to be a matter of a simple work permit and a nominal fee. It's now $500 for
the shearer and another $350 odd for the farmer, a mountain of paperwork and a trip to a UK visa
processing bureau and a biometric identity card.

British immigration lawyer Phillip Bath says the reality is that Australians should probably forget
about that annual sheep shearing trip to Old Blighty.

PHILLIP BATH: If you're an intending migrant, it's overnight made the UK a much more difficult
place to get a visa for. If they've got dependent children or they're over 30 years old they can't
come in and they're unlikely to be able to come here.

EMMA ALBERICI: It's come as a real blow for Britain's farmers like Rob Morris.

ROBERT MORRIS: We need somewhere in the region of 500 shearers from Australia and New Zealand for
our season. Guys that need the working visas are the real professional shearers who can shear
between three and 400 sheep a day.

EMMA ALBERICI: Are there just not the shearers here in the UK?

ROBERT MORRIS: We have got shearers here in the UK but we don't have enough shearers to complete
our shearing within our season. We've got about 25 million sheep in the UK to shear and we estimate
that about a quarter of these, about 25 per cent of these are shorn by Australian and New Zealand

The sheep will get shorn, albeit it'll be late in the summer, it'll be August and perhaps into
September and if this is the case we shall encounter a lot of welfare problems such as blowfly
strike and sheep getting on their backs with full fleeces and unable to get on their feet and they
will die within a matter of hours.

EMMA ALBERICI: So this is quite a serious problem?

ROBERT MORRIS: Yeah it is a serious problem for us here in the UK because if our sheep don't get
shorn then we will have a lot of animal welfare problems.

EMMA ALBERICI: There's a critical shortage of sheep shearers worldwide. It's a job you retire from
in your mid 30s and young men are no longer taking it up.

PETER CAVE: Emma Alberici.