In news that is welcomed by the agricultural industry, Victoria is set to receive an additional 1500 Pacific Island workers to combat the ongoing labour shortage. Nevertheless, the farming community has warned the government that more quarantine centres will be required to fulfil the industry’s needs. Due to the unavailability of workers, the government has faced its due criticism. Even though the Farmer’s Federation has welcomed this decision regarding Pacific Island workers, they also agree that this is but a tiny step towards filling this labour shortage.
This agreement to appoint new employees has been arrived at after incoming pressure on Victoria to renew its quarantine arrangement with Tasmania and guarantee more pickers for Victorian fruit and vegetable growers. As per this new deal, the Victorian government will provide quarantine facilities for Tasmanians that are returning to Australia. As a return option, the Tasmanian government will take the responsibility of quarantining Pacific Island workers before they set foot in Victoria.
Additionally, Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the workers were in addition to 1500 employees from the region that were arranged through negotiations with the Tasmanian government early this year. Therefore, these Pacific Island workers are to arrive in the country by March. Despite the promised increase in the Pacific Islands workforce, Ms Thomas said Victorian growers had to focus on attracting locals to work in the sector. Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said the addition of 1500 workers was much needed but was a “drop in the ocean”. She said 24,000 workers were needed for the coming peak season.
Ms Germano said the debate about bringing in foreign seasonal workers had not progressed since last year. However, steps need to be taken in order to combat this ongoing problem. This step is now being described as a ‘band aid’ solution and favourable for Pacific Island workers as well.
Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)