Many Australian farms face problems finding a reliable workforce in busy periods of the year.
“The Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, which is organised through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations helps growers by arranging short-term labour in the form of willing assistants from islands such as Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga,” said AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy.
“Vegetable and fruit growers previously relied on backpacker labour, which is becoming increasingly scarce with the current uncertain global financial situation leading to less people spending on travel,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“The pilot scheme benefits growers as the workforce remains at their farm for periods of 4-6 months, which cuts down on the amount of re-training that they need to do during their busiest periods of the year.”
“Another benefit of this scheme is that often workers return to the same farm year after year, meaning skills are retained and overall efficiency is improved.”
“The scheme also assists keen workers from Pacific Islands, where opportunities for work can be scarce, as these growers are paid to Australian standards, with money earned often used to support their families back home,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“A scheme like this is beneficial for all parties involved, as growers benefit through access to reliable and skilled workers, Australian industries are supported through improvements in efficiency and the workers benefit through employment that they may not otherwise have access to,” said Mr Mulcahy.
Mr Mulcahy urged growers thinking about using the scheme to plan ahead and prepare early as the process of arranging Pacific labour can take a number of months.
Anyone interested in more information on the scheme should call the Pilot information line on (02) 6240-5234 or visit the AUSVEG website (www.deewr.gov.au/Employment/Programs/PSWPS/Pages/default.aspx)
AUSVEG is the Peak Industry Body for Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.