Vic, Tas extend fruit and veg worker agreement
MELBOURNE: An additional 1500 Pacific Island seasonal workers will be on hand for Victoria’s fruit and vegetable picking season under the extension of a COVID-19 quarantine deal with Tasmania.
The island state will quarantine the workers in exchange for Victoria taking about 350 returning Australians on Tasmania’s behalf.
The two states in January brokered the deal that saw an initial 1500 workers from the Pacific arrive in Tasmania before heading to Victoria.
Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said a flight schedule for the new workers was being organised for the coming months.
‘‘These Pacific workers are an important part of the seasonal harvest, bringing skill and experience to bolster the local workforce during agriculture’s busiest periods,’’ she said.
Industry will chip in $2000 a worker to cover quarantine costs, while the Victorian Government will provide $5300 a person.
Tasmania has quarantined more than 2300 international seasonal workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said the agreement would not affect the number of seasonal workers needed for the state’s farms.
‘‘As a vital contributor to food security, we recognise that seasonal agricultural workers are essential to bolstering our agriculture industry during some of its busiest times,’’ he said.
A Victorian Government spokesperson said more than 3100 people had received the first $810 of a bonus designed to attract workers to the state’s $3.6 billion horticulture industry.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the new workers were a drop in the ocean.
‘‘Extension of Victoria’s seasonal worker deal with Tasmania is long overdue, but the 1500 places . . . is a Band-Aid solution that won’t make a dent in the tens of thousands of vacancies across the sector,’’ he said.