Australian banana growers welcome temporary visa extensions
The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has welcomed a Federal Government decision to allow temporary changes to visa arrangements, ensuring workforce stability across the industry.
Under the changes, workers within the Pacific Labour Scheme, Seasonal Worker Program and working holiday makers currently in Australia will be able to extend their stay and continue to work within the agriculture sector until the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has passed.
ABGC CEO Jim Pekin said the new arrangements were welcome news for banana producers nationally and would ensure the continued supply of bananas to Australian consumers.
“As a national industry, we welcome this morning’s announcement and thank the Commonwealth Government for listening to industry concerns and ensuring the continued sustainability of its workforce in the face of the current coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Pekin said.
“The banana industry harvests and packs 52 weeks per year. It’s workforce nationally is made up of approximately 40% local workers and 60% either backpackers or from the Seasonal Worker Program .”
Mr Pekin said the new arrangements would allow growers to retain their workforce, which would not only help keep them operating, but would also help protect the health and economic stability of regional communities.
“Growers will still continue to employ local staff as well as retain backpackers and Pacific Islanders.
“In this current climate of uncertainty, this news allows growers to retain existing staff on farm and within these local communities, which will reduce the need to seek workers from other regions or interstate.”
Those workers who must move from other parts of the country, are now required to adhere to strict health and safety requirements, including 14 days of self-isolation and registering with the Australian Government. Failure to do so may result in their visas being cancelled.
For further information or comment, call ABGC Communications Manager Sonia Campbell, 0428 038 330