Workforce Shortage Issues and Banana Job Vacancies

By the numbers

The latest total number of workers recruited under both the Seasonal Workers Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme exceeds 1300. A further 1100 are expected to arrive in Queensland before the end of June. The ABGC has requested information as to how many of these workers will enter the banana industry.

Guidelines now approved for regional quarantine facilities

The Queensland Government will now consider proposals for regional quarantine facilities, designed to accommodate larger numbers of workers.

Arrangements for these facilities would be similar to on-farm quarantine arrangements, in that an International Quarantine Plan must be approved by Queensland’s Chief Health Officer. However, workers will remain at the facility and participate in training and organised activities rather than working on a farm.

An approved employer who is interested in operating a regional facility should read the regional quarantine facility guidelines and contact DAF to discuss making an application for arrangements at the facility. Guidelines for regional quarantine facilities are available here

Prospective applicants for regional facilities are encouraged to seek a pre-lodgement meeting with QDAF via dafcovid19plsswp@daf.qld.gov.au.

The ABGC continues to advocate for more places to be made available in hotel quarantine.

ABGC Media Release

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) is urging the Queensland Government to follow suit with the New South Wales Government and implement half-price hotel quarantine for seasonal workers in agriculture. Read the full release here.

Important information 

Latest news on restrictions across Queensland here. 

Link to the Check in QLD App here (whilst this is not mandatory for farming businesses it is a quick and easy way for visitors to register. 

Worker shortages on banana farms continue to be an issue of critical concern. It is one of the ABGC’s highest priorities (to help ensure growers have access to staff), but the complexities of the matter – particularly the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) – coupled with government decisions and circumstances that change frequently, makes it an extremely difficult issue to navigate.

ABGC’s CEO Jim Pekin and Executive Officer Leanne Erakovic continue to have a range of discussions on harvest workforce needs for the banana industry, with growers, Approved Employers and Government representatives. Through these discussions and negotiations it is hoped we can continue to develop solutions to our workforce issues, both immediately and in the longer term. 

In addition, the ABGC has established a dedicated Job Vacancies page and continues to promote banana farm work extensively to school leavers and university students, largely through social media. You can view two of the promotional videos, made by the ABGC, below. 

Growers are encouraged to visit this page regularly for updates. You can also:

  • Sign up to ABGC e-bulletins (email amy@abgc.org.au
  • Follow ABGC on Facebook 
  • Ensure you are receiving the industry magazine Australian Bananas. Please email info@abgc.org.au with current details if you would like to be added to the distribution list.
  • Contact Executive Officer Leanne Erakovic via email or on 07 3278 4786.

Additional resources and information for banana growers:

Advertising for seasonal workers? Here are some tips from the QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

If you’re advertising for seasonal workers, don’t forget to include details of the incentives that are now available.

We’ve noticed some employers are advertising on social media and on urban job boards, so we want to make sure your prospective workers have all the latest information, particularly if they’re new to the agricultural industry and keen to give it a go.

Some suggested wording for your job ads:

  • New to farm work and want to know what to expect before you apply? Check out the FarmReady Hub.
  • You may also be able to access assistance from the Queensland and Australian governments if you relocate to take up this position. Check out #pickqld for more information.

COVID 19 TIMELINE

Banana industry specific information is highlighted. 

2019

DECEMBER: A novel coronavirus is identified in China and reported to the WHO. 

2020

JANUARY: First confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Australia. 

FEBRUARY: Travel to and from China is suspended.

MARCH: WHO declares a pandemic. Australia closes its borders to all non-residents and non-Australian citizens. Australians are banned from travelling overseas (with limited exceptions). Interstate borders begin to close. Measures including restrictions on gatherings, face masks and, in some cases, stricter lockdowns begin. Mandatory closure of non-essential services and social distancing rules. The Ruby Princess docks in Sydney. Pantry stocking (panic buying) takes place at many supermarkets. Agricultural groups (including the ABGC) begin lobbying to immediately extend visas of seasonal workers and backpackers to prevent food supply issues.

APRIL: Free childcare and Jobseeker payment introduced. The ABGC publicly calls for action on visas for workers, and the Federal Government announces extensions. 

MAY: New direction issued by Queensland Government around employing seasonal workers. COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa made available. 

JUNE: Restrictions begin to ease, albeit temporarily in some cases.

JULY: Victoria and NSW close their joint border. Melbourne begins another lockdown that lasts over 100 days. Queensland re-opens border, but not to Victoria. 

AUGUST: Queensland closes border to NSW and ACT. The ABGC releases COVID-19 Health Management Plan template and continues to advocate for industry on workforce shortages. Federal Government announces restart of SWP and PLS and ABGC requests the Queensland Government opt in. 

SEPTEMBER: Queensland border bubble extended. Victoria remains in hard lockdown. Restrictions are relatively normal, except for caps on numbers at some events and venues. Queensland Government opts in to SWP and PLS trial. 

OCTOBER: Lockdown restrictions in Victoria begin to ease. More broadly, border restrictions continue to ease. Four week trial of SWP and PLS approved in QLD.

NOVEMBER: Queensland border open but closed to hotspots.  The ABGC continues to advocate for more workable quarantine measures under the SWP/PLS trial. ABGC launches the Banana Jobs Noticeboard. 

DECEMBER: Queensland border checks removed, before restrictions are re-imposed to NSW, following an outbreak. Queensland SWP trial extended. 

2021

JANUARY: Brisbane three-day lockdown. Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine provisionally approved. Seasonal workers touch down in FNQ to assist with harvesting fruit. ABGC notes this is a welcome step, but will not go near addressing the broader issue. Growcom reports that fruit and veg losses related to worker shortages have topped $38m.

FEBRUARY: As at February 2, Australia had recorded 28,818 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths. An outbreak at  the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport hotel sparks concern, with 13 cases as at Feb 12, and hundreds of close contacts. First COVID vaccines arrive and rollout begins. 

MARCH: Vaccine rollout continues. Authorities keeping a close eye PNG COVID-19 outbreak. 

APRIL: Greater Brisbane three-day lockdown ends early on April 1. Restrictions remain in place across Queensland.