Or­chardists tak­ing care of work­ers

Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - Kate Dar­vall kate.dar­vall@south­bur­nett­times.com.au

THE hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try has been ac­cused of mis­treat­ing back­pack­ers, but one busi­ness has fought back.

North Bur­nett cit­rus grow­ers Ken and Megan Roth said they went “above and be­yond” to look af­ter their work­ers.

“We make it our mission to get to know them all and look af­ter their emo­tional and phys­i­cal well­be­ing,” Mrs Roth said.

She feared the whole in­dus­try would suf­fer due to one or two rogue op­er­a­tors.

Megan Roth Back­pack­ers are mak­ing more money than we are

FOL­LOW­ING a Four Cor­ners episode ex­pos­ing ex­ploita­tion of back­pack­ers in the Queens­land hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try, em­ploy­ers have re­sponded, say­ing this be­hav­iour is not across the board.

Gayn­dah cit­rus grow­ers Ken and Megan Roth said their busi­ness had run suc­cess­fully for more than 20 years thanks to good work­ing re­la­tion­ships with back­pack­ers.

“Our work­ers have a re­ally good work ethic and we couldn’t man­age with­out them,” Mrs Roth said.

She wor­ried the in­dus­try was let down by a few rogue op­er­a­tors, but said they were the ex­cep­tion.

“I think a few dodgy con­trac­tors have been high­lighted, not ac­tu­ally grow­ers,” Mrs Roth said.

She said her busi­ness and oth­ers in the North Bur­nett prided them­selves on main­tain­ing above-board work­ing con­di­tions.

“I truly be­lieve peo­ple in Gayn­dah and Mun­dub­bera, like our­selves, are go­ing above and be­yond to look af­ter our work­ers,” Mrs Roth said.

“We make it our mission to get to know them all and look af­ter their emo­tional and phys­i­cal well­be­ing.”

From her ex­pe­ri­ence, Mrs Roth said back­pack­ers were just as re­liant on the fruit pick­ing in­dus­try as it was on them.

“If they do 80 days, then they get to stay in Australia for a sec­ond year,” she said.

“If they’re pre­pared to work from early April to early June, they can get that done.”

Mrs Roth said there was also de­cent money to be made.

“Back­pack­ers are mak­ing more money than we are,” she said.

“They’re here to make money and make money they are.”

Mrs Roth said the hor­ti­cul­tural busi­ness was just like any other and you needed to work hard for a re­turn.

“They have to be pre­pared to put in a rea­son­able day’s ef­fort and be pro­duc­tive,” she said.

She hoped one or two rogue em­ploy­ers would not ruin it for the whole in­dus­try.

“I hate to think we would lose our work­force,” she said.

PHOTO: KATE DAR­VALL

IN SAFE HANDS: Ital­ian back­packer Serena Fan­tini, 24 (left), says it's been a great sea­son work­ing for Megan Roth (right).

PHOTO: KATE DAR­VALL

FRUIT PICK­ING: Ital­ian back­packer Serena Fan­tini, 24 (right), says it's been a great sea­son and work­ing for Megan Roth (left) is "a lot of fun".

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