Although shearing is considered to be one of the iconic industries in Australia, nowadays, it is sinking, and shearers and shearing contractors are pushing for a significant increase in payment along with penalty rates for oversize or large or full sheep, and well-maintained modern facilities.
Most contractors would take any job for the sake of work.
Farmers do not appreciate the ergonomic requirements for a successful shearing. Due to the lack of everyday hands-on experience when it comes to commercial shearing.
Most farmers don't see it valid to have modern functioning facilities as it may only be used for one week at a time. Others think it is too expensive and a senseless investment.
Some people have amazing workplaces, some farmers have a curious attitude and a willingness to learn and provide an adequate facility. They are few and far between.
According to a 2016 report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, across the country, there are just 2,482 shearers and the number of shearers fell 13% in five years.
Phil Graham, a livestock systems analyst with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, told ABC Radio "I know a shearing contractor who is no longer shearing first cross ewes because of the stress it's putting on his shearers and breakdown – not injuries but breakdown – in knees and joints, just from the continual strain. There's issues out there that we just can't hide from."
Fasting times are too short for animals and as a result, the weight of the sheep can exceed 100 kg. Shearers handling sheep full of feed and water can become stressed, violent, injured and weak.
A sheep presented full for shearing, is heavier than an animal rested from feed.
When a sheep is run from the paddock straight to shearing he is worked up, agitated so the Sheep full of feed and water is more likely to become stressed, violent, injured and weak.
When the full sheep is put under too much strain their bums will fall out.
•The sheep have a huge stomach and intestines - this needs the correct amount of time too empty.
•When a sheep is rested correctly before shearing this reduces many problems.
Farmers don't seem to understand that the ideal fasting time is variable to each animal's size, weight, diet, age, etc. This really needs to be coordinated well between the worker and Farmer, to achieve optimal preparedness. Resulting in faster production times and lower operating costs. Full sheep loaded into a wool-shed increase the risk of exposure to ammonia. Penstain reduces clip value.
Leptospirosis is spread by the urine of infected animals. People become infected when handling by-products of urinating animals. Leptospirosis can cause severe illness including influenza-like symptoms, muscular pain, pulmonary haemorrhage, vomiting, headache, intolerance of light, fetal mortality, abdominal pain, etc.
Proper management systems, workplace inspections, and maintenance programs in consultation with workers can help reduce the risks associated with shearing. However, many organisations are reluctant to invest in new and functional facilities, and as a result, the work is taking its toll by ruining the health of Shearers.
Australian Wool Innovation invests heavily into the skills required by staff. In our industry, most workers have met an AWI representative and have had some type of training engagement.
Skilled training is not a problem. However, this project is about Workplace Health and Safety and it shows, the lack of training inductions or systems and procedures.
The real problem appears to be within the management level. Between the Farmers and the Contractor, they need to change what they do to suit the modern environment of worker requirements.
When a Shearing Contractor stands up for health and safety requirements they could lose their work. Shearing contractors just don't have the gumption to enforce the requirements.
Inadequate shed conditions are another issue faced by the shearers for years. Most of the facilities are old fashioned, shabby, and dilapidated, and put the workers' lives at risk. A combination of physical suffering, mental agony, and poor payment, compel them to 'bid adieu' to this industry and look for work in another one. This is causing the national shortage of shearers, which will ultimately contribute to the demolition of the shearing industry.
When workers are asked why they are leaving the industry, most of them blamed the condition of the workspaces while others the size of sheep and debilitating injury. And when they are asked about things that can improve their health and safety in shearing, and make people stay or return to this industry, they answered, these are simply better facilities, pay increase, and extra pay for oversize, large or full sheep.
It is a good time to be farming wool because, after decades of poor returns, the price of wool has reached a historic high. According to the Australian woolgrowers, the market is stronger than it has been in the last 3 decades. Strong demand from China and European fashion houses, demand for high-quality superfine wool from Italy, and growing interest from shoe and sports campaign in the US are the chief reasons behind this hike.
The AWI, which engages in research and marketing to endorse Australian wool abroad, has been working on product development with the major brands, in order to integrate wools into their sportswear and shoes. Due to this rising demand, it is expected that the price of wool will continue to grow, and in such a situation, both farmers and shearers have to work together to meet the demand, and keep this industry alive.
WA Farmers livestock policy executive officer Kim Haywood said "Shearers play a very important role in the wool supply chain and we need to make sure that facilities are up to scratch." Everyone has the right to safety, and the shearers do too.
So, if you support the cause of this petition, please sign it, and ask the Wool Producers Australia to take the necessary steps to improve the facilities, and motivate the shearers to return back to this industry.
Address to: Wool Producers Australia
Attention: Jo Hall
Wool Producers Australia Chief Executive Officer
Phone: 0488 554 811