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Pacific Island seasonal workers scheme achieves permanency

19 December 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the announcement that the Seasonal Workers Scheme for the Pacific Region and East Timor will become permanent from July 2012.

NFF Workplace Relations Committee Chair, Charles Armstrong, said the announcement made by the Government yesterday recognises the success of the Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, and the important role it has played in meeting the seasonal harvest needs of the horticulture industry.

“The decision by the Government to grant the Seasonal Workers Scheme permanency is great news for Australian horticulturalists and employees from the Pacific Region and East Timor,” Mr Armstrong said.

“This Scheme was established by the Australian Government and the NFF as a way of providing benefits to both farmers and employees – providing a workforce to meet the huge labour shortages in horticulture, while also providing new training and skills to employees from overseas, so that they can then take those skills back home.

“The scheme is vitally important to Australia’s fruit growers, with some 22,000 fruit picking jobs left unfilled each year, costing growers around $100,000 per crop per year in rotting fruit,” Mr Armstrong said.

“We are also very pleased to see that the Government will be running a small-scale three-year trial for other industries, including cotton and cane, both of which face severe labour shortages around their peak seasons.

“Given the success of the horticulture Scheme, the NFF has been approached by farmers across many industries seeking to have the scheme widened to other commodities, and we have taken this request to Government.

“Yesterday’s announcement is therefore very welcome news to the NFF, along with farmers within the cotton and cane industries.

“Similar to the pilot scheme, this trial will enable cotton and cane growers to access overseas workers to help with peak times like harvest, while providing them with vital on-farm skills. Farmers will be required to demonstrate that they cannot find enough local labour to meet the harvest requirements, must show their commitment to meeting Australian work standards and make a contribution to the worker’s travel costs.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government as the pilot migrates into the permanent scheme, and in helping to establish the cotton and cane trials,” Mr Armstrong said.

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