The increasingly critical issue of getting workers on farms remains a key priority for the ABGC.
New Banana Jobs Noticeboard
ABGC recently launched the national Banana Jobs Noticeboard https://abgc.org.au/bananajobs/ to help growers advertise and source local workers in key growing regions.
To post your job, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Job Vacancies submission”. Be sure to include your farm name, location, email and contact number (this will be published), and a brief job description (15 words or less). You can also include a website link or logo (small jpeg or png file).
Growers are encouraged to also list jobs on the Government’s Harvest Trail jobs board https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest/employers
Update on Queensland SWP/PLS
The Queensland Government’s trial pilot of the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) is under way and ABGC is looking to secure the future of this much needed program.
Discussions with that Government have been focussed on a continuation of the SWP and PLS programs.
At the time of writing, external consultants are conducting a review and risk assessment of the pilot on-farm quarantine and no decision has been made on the future of the program.
ABGC is hopeful of a continuation of the SWP/PLS and encourages all growers to talk to their SWP/PLS approved employer in readiness of future flights.
On-farm Quarantine Option
While industry awaits confirmation of the future SWP/PLS, the Queensland Government has responded to ABGC’s concern that the guidelines for on-farm quarantine are difficult for 95 percent of banana farms.
Government advised it will retain on-farm quarantine at a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 80 workers. And due to Government’s limited capacity to monitor compliance, this may be limited to a maximum of six on-farm quarantine sites in use at any one time across Queensland.
Queensland Health determine this is the most COVID safe approach.
To address the compliance capacity shortfall, ABGC requested the Queensland Government redeploy staff. The Queensland Government advised it has deployed staff from other areas to the COVID-response and is unable to allocate further resources to compliance.
Hotel Quarantine Option
Hotel quarantine is in high demand and returning Australians are given priority. Yet, in addition to on-farm quarantine, the Queensland Government will consider applications from Approved Employers looking to pay costs to quarantine small numbers (up to 10) SWP/PLS workers in hotel accommodation. The current rate is $2800 each person quarantined.
The Queensland Government advised it will not be adopting the Tasmanian SWP/PLS model where workers are quarantined in a Government-approved and funded facility before going to work on farms.
Unlike Queensland, which has a cap on international arrivals, Tasmania has no cap to limit the arrival of SWP/PLS workers.
ABGC has asked the Queensland Government to provide a quota for the quarantined entry of SWP/PLS workers which is in addition to the existing cap on arrivals.
Other SWP/PLS Options
In addition to on-farm and hotel quarantine, the ABGC is encouraging the Queensland Government to explore all avenues for getting SWP/PLS workers into Australia to meet the current demand of 7000 workers.
The ABGC continues to voice major concerns of the need to repatriate SWP/PLS workers ready to return home with an exchange of new workers ready and available to travel and work on farms.
The Federal Government advise it is well aware of the issue and will facilitate this where possible.
The Federal Government also advise demand for SWP/PLS workers is high. For example Vanuatu workers are also in demand in New Zealand. As a result, growers are advised to be flexible on which countries they use to source their SWP/PLS workers.
Federal Government Discussions
The ABGC has also written to and held discussions with the offices of several Senators and the Federal Agriculture Minister urging a more workable and bankable pathway that enables banana growers to access Pacific Island workers.
In addition, ABGC is part of the NFF Hort Council which has been active on a number of fronts, including a concerted effort for a travel bubble to help access workers from COVID-free Pacific Island nations and a return of Working Holiday Makers.
Working on a Banana Farm Video
To encourage more Australians and, in particular, young Australians to consider working on banana farms, the ABGC has produced a video for social media which has now reached almost 4500 people.
The video, featuring two young and enthusiastic workers, takes viewers through an average day on a banana farm, explaining some of the basic jobs and what potential employees can expect. It’s positive and engaging – the perfect introduction to banana work.
The video is designed to complement the new Banana Jobs Noticeboard and is targeted at school leavers and university students – two demographics the ABGC has identified as being able to help fill current gaps.
In addition to reaching thousands in our defined audience, it has been viewed over 20 thousand times and prompted more than 200 shares and likes. You can view it by visiting our Facebook page here.
ABGC will keep growers updated on labour force developments via these e-bulletins.
For right now, it is suggested growers:
– Read ABGC e-bulletins for updates
– Utilise the ABGC’s Banana Jobs Noticeboard
– Talk to your SWP Approved Employer
– Members could also contact ABGC’s Leanne Erakovic about your farm’s worker shortages on 07 3278 4786.