Warning to growers ahead of harvest season for onions
AUTHORITIES will be cracking down on farmers and growers in the coming months, as onion harvest season is set to begin.
“Onion season will be targeted this year,” Lockyer Valley Growers Inc president Michael Sippel said during the group’s quarterly meeting earlier this month.
“I’ve been warned and was told to pass it along.”
Onion season traditionally runs from mid to late September through to April and is a period of increased demand for farmers, who can often find themselves needing more workers to harvest their crops.
This additional workforce can come in the form of immigrant workers and backpackers, who often don’t have the same knowledge or protections as domestic workers.
A 2016 study by the University of Adelaide indicated about 78 per cent of farmers relied on foreign workers to keep up with harvest demands during seasonal peak times.
There have been many reported cases in recent years of farmers – sometimes unintentionally, through the duplicity of rogue labour-hire operators – exploiting their workers or hiring illegal immigrants.
Mr Sippel didn’t accuse any of those present at the meeting of untoward activity but warned authorities would be performing spot-checks on onion growers in particular.
He wasn’t able to speak for what other crops might become the subject of crackdowns as harvesting periods commenced for other crops.
“There’s talk that hiring workers through an accredited contractor means you won’t be liable for any issues but this isn’t the case,” Mr Sippel said.
“You as growers are still responsible for underpaid or illegal workers.”