Labour continues to be a hot button issue for the horticulture sector with issues emerging on a range of fronts including a lack of legal workers who are willing to work on horticulture enterprises.
Growcom is strongly supportive of increased enforcement to ensure workers in our industry are treated appropriately and are working legally. We are also committed to ensuring our growers understand their legal obligations.
The increased scrutiny of poor work practices and some high profile convictions have led to a significant reduction in the pool of workers who are willing to work on horticulture farms. This leads us to the conclusion that many of those working in previous years may not have been doing so legally.
We have heard of significant labour shortages in the Scenic Rim, placing the onion harvest in jeopardy. We have also heard very concerning reports of workers walking off the job because the grower refused to pay them in cash ‘under the table’.
In addition, Rosie Ayliffe, whose daughter Mia Ayliffe-Chung was murdered by a fellow backpacker in Homehill, has launched an international social media campaign vilifying Australian farmers and paying backpackers for negative comments on a closed Facebook page.
The combined effect is that many good growers are unable to find workers.
These types of issues, coupled with some appalling reports of exploitation have led the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) to call for an amnesty for illegal workers, an approach which has recently been implemented in Canada.
Growcom will be discussing the merits of such an approach with the Queensland Horticulture Council.
Growcom supports calls from the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and AUSVEG for a dedicated agriculture visa, provided it is developed in tandem with the current working holiday maker visa program.
Growcom is calling on the Australian Government to work with us on a long-term multi-faceted solution to our perennial labour supply issue.