Forced labour not the answer to shortage
PRIME Minister Morrison’s announcement that harvest jobs would be filled by the long-term unemployed and those on welfare is yet another example of the government’s lack of knowledge around the needs of the horticulture industry.
The industry is not the repository for the long-term unemployed and we want willing workers not those with no choice.
Growcom continues to advocate for a dedicated agricultural visa that will genuinely address the needs of farmers, as well as reforms to the Seasonal Workers Program.
Obviously, we would prefer to employ Australians but despite incentive programs to entice local workers into these seasonal roles, the volatile nature of the industry makes it challenging to recruit local workers.
Two years ago, the Queensland strawberry industry launched “The Sweetest Jobs” campaign to encourage Aussies onto farms. Of the more than 2000 expressions of interest, 1000 jobseekers filled in an initial screening survey to determine suitability in terms of availability and capacity.
Of those 1000, only 126 were interviewed and today, two years on, only one remains employed.
This is not necessarily a negative reflection on the jobseekers, as the variable nature of farm work makes it challenging for anyone with a family who cannot commit to working flexible hours and days, doesn’t have transport or who wants consistent part-time or full-time work.
It does however, highlight that it is problematic to assume that local jobseekers can provide an alternative, reliable and stable labour source.
Many horticulture enterprises are significant regional employers and being able to access seasonal workers means they can provide employment for local people in longer-term positions.
We call on the Government to work with industry to put forward a sensible option to address horticulture’s labour challenges.
Growcom is committed to the ethical treatment of workers through our Fair Farms initiative and coercing workers who don’t want to be there is not the pathway to a sustainable workforce.
is problematic to assume local jobseekers can provide an alternative, reliable and stable labour source.
LABOUR ISSUES: Growcom says forcing the long-term unemployed into seasonal roles is not the solution to the horticulture industry’s worker shortage.