AUSVEG, the peak industry body for vegetable and potato growers, has welcomed the latest government announcement of the first stage of reforms to Australia’s labour mobility programs, which include the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), which will make the programs more accessible to more businesses in the industry.
The announcement includes the development of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) website, which will allow employers to apply to join the PLS and SWP through a single application, making it easier and less burdensome for growers to access workers through these programs.
In addition, the SWP and PLS have become more aligned and flexible so they can better respond to the needs of employers and workers, including:
· Allowing PLS workers to be recruited in more locations across regional Australia by reducing postcode restrictions to better align with the SWP;
· Increasing the validity period for labour market testing from 6 months to 12 months, reducing red tape for employers; and
· Doubling recruitment caps for SWP approved employers with a good record that also have financial capacity to support additional worker arrivals.
AUSVEG CEO Michael Coote said the vegetable industry welcomed the announcement from the Morrison Government, as these programs had been vital for growing businesses all over Australia to secure workers to harvest, pack and distribute crops.
“The SWP and PLS are important labour programs for our industry, not just as a source of critical labour during the current labour shortages, but also as programs that prioritise workers’ welfare and allow our industry to develop close ties to our regional neighbours and support workers and their communities,” said Mr Coote.
“Today’s announcement is welcome recognition that streamlining the application process for these programs and reducing a little red tape will enhance the programs for the benefit of approved employers and workers.”
Since the SWP and PLS recommenced in September last year, more than 10,000 workers have arrived in Australia from participating countries. Today’s announcement will support the Australian Government’s commitment to bring an additional 12,500 workers by March next year.
“Harvest labour continues to be significant challenge for the sector, which has been estimated to reach up to 24,000 harvest workers in early 2022 for the coming peak harvest season,” said Mr Coote.
“As an industry, demand for harvest labour can increase drastically in a short space of time, so it is absolutely critical that we increase our quarantine capacity to be able to meet that demand for workers.
“As the summer season comes closer, demand for workers is increasing and we need to ensure we have adequate quarantine capacity to be able to bring in workers quickly and safely.”