A defining challenge of the 2021/22 Australian mango season has been the difficulties accessing workers to pick and pack this season’s crop. Following feedback provided to AMIA this season, we have provided this article as a short summary of resources available for our growers moving forward.
According to the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN), there was a 73.2% reduction in Working Holiday Makers in Australia from early 2020 to June 2021. Further changes to the 417 visa have allowed visa holders to work in Tourism and Hospitality roles in northern Australia, remote and very remote areas, to count as specified work.
In a typical year, attracting the attention of seasonal workers has been relatively straight-forward for most growers, whether they did this via a contractor or by themselves. Now with a smaller pool of worker candidates that businesses are competing for, standing out from the crowd has become even more important. Advertising on social media, providing non-cash incentives, and/or slightly increased rates of pay, have been utilised by different growers to attract and keep their workers through the season. If maintaining the required level of workforce for an entire season is the main challenge, consider providing a bonus to workers if they stay for the whole season or a minimum number of weeks.
There are already several websites where growers can advertise their short-term and casual positions, or alternatively where individuals can promote their services and growers can contact them directly. By utilising these services workers can be organised weeks or months in advance, and upfront understanding of what work will be involved and the relevant pay rates can be established with the workers. To promote your business on Swaggie or Harvest Trail please head to: https://swaggie.co/ and https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest.
For Australian citizens and permanent residents, AgMove Relocation Assistance is available to cover the costs of travel and accommodation when you move to take up a short term agricultural or harvest job opportunity. Up to $6 000 is available in two payments, dependent on how much work is completed. When advertising your business for workers, consider promoting in a town or city further away and include details such as the AgMove program to attract them to your business. For further information head to: https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest/workers/relocation-assistance.
Interest in the consolidated Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme has increased this season due to difficulties sourcing a local workforce. There are several requirements that must be met to be eligible. This includes being able to offer suitable accommodation for workers, offer a minimum of 30 hours per week of work and offer a minimum number of weeks work (minimum time depends on if you are an approved employer, or if going through a labour hire company). Becoming an approved employer in the scheme is a very involved process, so for growers that cannot go through the scheme as an individual farm may still access workers via an approved labour hire company. You can visit the PALM scheme website for further information, application details or to find a labour company in your area: https://www.palmscheme.gov.au/.
Navigating the requirements of your workforce or exploring new areas to source workers can be confusing. AMIA encourages our growers to reach out to your QAWN representative in your area, or to Aisla Connolly from Northern Territory (NT) Farmers, if you would like further information or assistance.
Contact details below: