Labour sit­u­a­tion nears cri­sis

So­lu­tions to short­ages could in­clude ded­i­cated ag visas

Gatton Star - - LIFE - Pat Hannan Grow­com CEO

LABOUR con­tin­ues to be a hot-but­ton is­sue for the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor with is­sues emerg­ing on a range of fronts, in­clud­ing a lack of le­gal work­ers who are will­ing to work on hor­ti­cul­ture en­ter­prises.

Grow­com is strongly sup­port­ive of in­creased en­force­ment to en­sure work­ers in our in­dus­try are treated ap­pro­pri­ately and are work­ing legally.

We are also com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing our grow­ers un­der­stand their le­gal obli­ga­tions.

The in­creased scru­tiny of poor work prac­tices and some high-pro­file con­vic­tions have led to a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the pool of work­ers will­ing to work on hor­ti­cul­ture farms.

This leads us to the con­clu­sion that many of those work­ing in pre­vi­ous years may not have been do­ing so legally.

We have heard of sig­nif­i­cant labour short­ages in the Scenic Rim, plac­ing the onion har­vest in jeop­ardy. We have also heard very con­cern­ing re­ports of work­ers walk­ing off the job be­cause the grower re­fused to pay them in cash ‘un­der the ta­ble’.

In ad­di­tion, Rosie Ayliffe, whose daugh­ter Mia Aylif­fechung was mur­dered by a fel­low back­packer in Home­hill, has launched an in­ter­na­tional so­cial me­dia cam­paign vil­i­fy­ing Aus­tralian farm­ers.

The com­bined ef­fect is that many good grow­ers are un­able to find work­ers.

Th­ese types of is­sues, cou­pled with some ap­palling re­ports of ex­ploita­tion, have led the Vic­to­rian Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (VFF) to call for an amnesty for il­le­gal work­ers, an ap­proach which has re­cently been im­ple­mented in Canada.

Grow­com will be dis­cussing the mer­its of such an ap­proach with the Queens­land Hor­ti­cul­ture Coun­cil. Grow­com sup­ports calls from the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (NFF) and AUSVEG for a ded­i­cated agri­cul­ture visa, pro­vided it is de­vel­oped in tan­dem with the cur­rent work­ing hol­i­day maker visa pro­gram.

Grow­com is call­ing on the Aus­tralian Govern­ment to work with us on a long-term multi-faceted so­lu­tion to our peren­nial labour sup­ply is­sue.

PHOTO: ALTER_PHOTO

SLIM PICK­INGS: Labour con­tin­ues to be an is­sue in the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor.

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