As a result of COVID-19, the agriculture industry is facing a significant labour shortage. Antonio Pinto, a 29-year old Timorese man, travelled to Australia from his village in Viveque for the third time in 2019, leaving a two-year-old son at home. Otherwise they start forgetting their community and look at the influence of the lifestyle here.”, Morres Kaltaupa, from Vanuatu, at the accommodation provided by his employer at a Jeftomson apple orchard near Shepparton. But some say it’s a waste of time because local hires and backpackers – who are working their 88 days to get a visa extension – don’t seem to stick around. They’re not here for fun, they just want to make their money and go home. Photograph: Carly Earl. Search Every Job, Everywhere with Adzuna The berry industry is worth some $80m a year to the state of Tasmania, and Burlington Berries alone hires hundreds of workers from more than 30 countries to cover their October to June season. While worker exploitation can, unfortunately, never be entirely legislated out of existence, the evidence that the seasonal workers program dramatically reduces it is strong. “Sometimes the boys will feel sad and I’ll say, ‘Don’t sit at home, it will make it feel worse.’”. More than 20,000 people have entered Australia through the seasonal worker program since the pilot began in 2008, and it’s now open to residents from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. There is no suggestion that any of the farms that Guardian Australia visited or photographed for this article have been subject of such complaints or allegations. The Papua New Guinea Seasonal Workers Scheme (PNGSWS) is a pilot program which is a beneficiary of the Australian Governments Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme (PSWPS). There are fewer than 7,000 still in the country, largely people who were working on six-month contracts when the borders shut. 175 local seasonal workers jetted out of the country yesterday for Australia to join other Pacific countries to formally join the restart of Australia’s labour mobility programs. Some growers become approved employers and recruit directly, while others go through third-party employment agencies that take on more of the responsibilities for workers. It is undeniable that rural and regional Australia have an issue with labour. The workers will have to quarantine, which he says they’ll do at the motel complex. We are sailing into a food shortage and few are talking about it. Nothing has brought that into sharper relief than the pandemic. It’s a bright and clear morning in Cressy outside of Launceston, and music is blasting from a speaker buried beneath boxes of fruit on a trolley. The Australian Government is attempting to pinch our seasonal workers in a bid to strengthen their agricultural harvesting industry by offering New Zealanders $2000 to move across the ditch. “Sometimes they will miss me or sometimes say, ‘It’s all right, Mum.’”, Manuela Dos Santos working on the Hillwood Berries site in Tasmania, Dos Santos wants to send her girls, now five and eight, to college one day. Samoan seasonal workers in Orrvale, near Shepparton, Victoria, have had their visas extended because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. “Complaints include the provision of substandard accommodation, deductions of up to 60% of wages for lodging and board, long hours and excessive or unpaid overtime, and lack of access to health care,” Union Aid Abroad said. Pastor Napota Simaika, a resident of Shepparton, is a community leader who helps orchard workers. Back then the plan was to meet the people coming to Australia every year, for up to nine months at a time, to pick Australia’s produce. After four seasons, Fetui has funded a new car and a family-run milk bar business, and has dreams of buying a fishing boat to increase the family’s income. The workers we meet in Tasmania are all aware of the horror stories but few have major complaints of their own, except for the cost of sometimes crowded accommodation. Germany and Canada have already done this, reopening their borders to seasonal workers, subject to quarantine requirements and enhanced provisions intended to ensure the health and safety of the workers once they arrive. You will often be paid accordingly, calculated by per bucket or cart you fill. (ABC Rural: Kim Honan)Farmers 'worried' by situation. The passengers include stranded and seasonal workers, who will be quarantined at the Tanoa Hotel in Nuku’alofa and Makeke Camp in Vaini for the next 14-days. Australian South Sea Islanders calling for hard policy changes in 1. Seasonal workers have the same rights at work as other employees in Australia. Guardian Australia interviewed dozens of workers and growers in northern Tasmania and in Victoria’s Shepparton region, who were almost overwhelmingly positive about the opportunities the program brought, but but also spoke of high personal costs. They may also get entitlements from an award or registered agreement. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. (Unless you're totally broke and on the wrong side of the continent.) Hillwood Berries has signed up for when Tasmania can bring the workers in, although he doesn’t know yet how much the flights will be – the business will be paying for everything above the workers’ capped cost – or which supply countries will opt back in. People who had relied on the work and planned their futures around the income suddenly found themselves on flights home to unemployment and lockdowns. There were 148,500 working holiday visa holders in Australia in 2016. Seasonal Workers Australia, Doncaster, Victoria. Reopening the seasonal worker program could be a moment in which the Australia-Pacific partnership comes of age, pointing the direction to a future defined by mutual help rather than development aid. Once they are in a job the workers have few choices – they largely stay where the grower has organised, and must pay back the cost of it, as well as their flights and sometimes visas, insurance and other costs – before they draw a full income from the picking. She finally bought her land but work on her house has had to pause. Another farm, Hillwood Berries, has its workers housed at a hotel north of Launceston, a sprawling complex in faux “Grand Tudor” style. At one end of the spectrum it is seen as Australia’s greatest form of foreign aid, which simultaneously fills a domestic workforce shortage. What were they sacrificing to do so, and why? Some have taken legal action over their treatment. “We’ll nurse them through this season and try to take the load of them and spread it on some local guys we’re trying to recruit as well.”. Lavenda Aiseke, a 24-year-old Tongan supporting her parents and siblings, says she’ll be returning for as long as the growers will take her. In roughly the same period, some 8,000 seasonal workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste were working in Australia as part of the seasonal worker program. Others have died, with their deaths landing before state coroners to examine an alarming dearth of pastoral and healthcare. She says they have pushed for more women, which was met with some resistance from community leaders who thought women should stay home. Harvest work is available all over Australia making it a convenient way to combine work and play. A 2017 World Bank report found that most workers were satisfied with their experience: 91% said they would recommend it to others in their village. Each year, at the peak of the harvest, Australia needs about 40,000 people to get its fruit and vegetables picked. Travel Your visa will be granted with multiple entry, which means you may be able to travel outside Australia and return during your period of Seasonal Work, you should notify your employer if you intend to depart Australia, before the conclusion of your employment. Seasonal Workers Australia sources seasonal workers from Pacific Island nations under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and … They must do labour market testing before hiring program workers to ensure the hires are a supplement to Australian employment, not a replacement. Primarily Timorese, ni-Vanuatu and Tongans, the workers at the berry farms of this region are in their early 20s to early 40s. Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) CVA has been organizing short- and long-term voluntary conservation projects, including tree planting, walking trail construction, and wildlife surveys in Australia since 1982. “In Samoa there’s no factories or anything like that – they rely on coconuts and taro but you can’t get that all the time, and mother nature comes and destroys the crops,” says Pastor Napota Simaika, a Shepparton resident and a Samoan community leader who acts as a go-between for growers and Samoan workers. Dornauf is buoyed by news of a trial reopening of the program that saw 160 seasonal workers from Vanuatu sent to Darwin for the mango season. A seasonal worker picks strawberries on a Tasmanian farm. Find your ideal job at SEEK with 1,082 seasonal work jobs found in All Australia. In 2016-17 there were 6,166 workers who came to Australia on the Seasonal Workers Program. Photograph: Darren James. Because they stayed in Australia, most of Hillwood’s regular workers will be back for the next harvest. Get a seasonal job as a harvest casual, tractor operator, seeding unit operator or harvester across South Australian regions from April to January. Seasonal workers are covered by the minimum entitlements under the National Employment Standards. In the meantime she’s enjoying the extra time with her daughters, even though they are struggling financially. All rights reserved. With not enough workers to pick the upcoming harvest, Australia faces potential food shortages, and its farmers face economic devastation, Last modified on Fri 14 Aug 2020 02.21 BST. The program was set up specifically to avoid this type of exploitation and has largely been successful. Michael Rose is a research fellow and anthropologist at the Australian National University, and the author of Indigenous Spirits and Global Aspirations in a Southeast Asian Borderland: Timor-Leste’s Oecussi Enclave, Australia could include Pacific labourers in 'travel bubble' as $280m aid shake-up revealed, Tuvalu threatens to exit Australia's seasonal worker program after deputy PM's comments. Employers must be approved by the Australian government and are given strict guidelines surrounding employment conditions and pastoral care. There isn’t. His brother and son are among the local workers. The scheme is open to anyone over the age of 18 and with the right to work in Australia. The Australian government extended visas for up to a year and allowed workers to move to other farms. “But we sort of really took the stance that it was a great confidence builder for women.”. These are some of their stories, Sat 17 Oct 2020 20.00 BST All workers who enter Australia to take part in the Seasonal Worker Programme must continue to be employed by their sponsor (employer) for the duration of their placement in Australia. There are romances, power plays, deep friendships and bitter rivalries. The applicant must have adequate arrangements in Australia for health insurance during the period of the applicant’s intended stay in Australia. “I have a little business but it’s all stopped because there are no markets, everything is closed,” she says. You must have received a concrete offer of full-time employment. Find 458 Seasonal Jobs in Western Australia. Manuela Dos Santos, a single mother mother from Timor-Leste, has left her daughters with her parents. Seniel Ben is from Emae Island in Vanuatu. If this doesn’t change the result is likely to be shortages and price rises for horticultural products and, even more seriously, devastating hardship for our primary producers. “I think all of the approved employers here take the responsibilities around it … really, really seriously,” Slater says. There are more than enough eager workers to make up the shortfall in backpacker labour, but bringing them here would require bureaucratic flexibility, political will, planning, multilateral consultation and, perhaps most of all, forward planning. You can work for a few days, weeks or months, totally up to you. The number of Pacific seasonal workers in Australia has progressively increased since 2008, but remains small in comparison both to the overall number of foreign workers operating in these sectors, mainly backpackers, and to New Zealand’s equivalent Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme. It also contributes to the economic development of seasonal workers from nine participating Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste. Requirements of seasonal workers. The federal government said its Northern Territory counterparts and the industry had covered the flights and quarantine costs, reported to be about $100,000 for the charter plane and $2,500 a worker for quarantine. It’s a significant interruption to life and so people want to work as many hours as possible. News reports have revealed workers being charged more than $1,000 a week to sleep on a couch. It’s something between a workplace, with all its office politics, and a school or college camp with all its drama. And I want to buy land for myself to build a house because I have two kids.”. But, despite the red tape, a 2016 joint parliamentary committee inquiry into the program heard exploitation of program participants was “common”. PNG SEASONAL WORKERS SCHEME. Workers were redeployed to far north Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. A few weeks later Dos Santons is in touch again, and she’s wondering if there’s any news about flights restarting for Timorese workers. Clearly, if nothing is done, a labour shortage on Australian farms going into the summer harvest season is a real possibility. At the time of speaking, Dili is in lockdown with schools closed, and she can’t return to her former job. You can have more than one employer, but you must then have received a concrete offer from each employer. As Victoria’s Covid-19 outbreak threatens to spiral out of control and beyond its borders, Australia faces another pandemic-related crisis. There are solutions within our reach, if we act in time, but with each week that goes get by achieving them will be harder. The best part of it is that seasonal work in Australia is so easy to find. “I love the job,” she tells us. The negative press made some growers wary of the media in Tasmania, where they insist their industry is too small for anyone to get away with exploitation. Timor-Leste has upwards of 10,000 people impatiently waiting for the chance to deploy to Australia and has been actively seeking access for some of them. Find your ideal job at SEEK with 1,057 seasonal jobs found in All Australia. More than a year after we met, life is now very different for some of the workers. On the left is Sauiluma, Leleiga’s son, with local children at his family’s shopfront in Falease’ela, Samoa. Asked about the allegations of exploitation, some of which were in the Shepparton region, Simaiki says he thinks those situations are mostly connected to contractors, rather than growers who do the work to become approved employers. Like the backpackers their visas have been extended by 12 months, but also like the backpackers, many will be keen to return home as soon as flights are available and borders are open. It needs to be considered a matter of national priority. Dornauf concedes they’ll be tired after working back-to-back seasons. There is also a sizeable mostly-off-the-books workforce, often people on various sorts of student or humanitarian visas, as well as a relatively small cohort of professional pickers from Australia and New Zealand. When Covid-19 shut Australia’s borders and grounded global flights, the seasonal worker program was thrown into disarray. Ugapo has bought a car, started building a new home and plans to improve the family farm. For him and his wife, the sacrifices give their sons a better life. Photograph: Darren James, “Everybody has to come to church,” he says, laughing. Several women, including senior group leaders, say they’ve had to push back against some sexism and harassment from male colleagues. As the months tick down towards the summer harvest there are simply not enough people to pick the fruit. Ben Doherty’s reporting on the sad story of Silas Aru. Without any chance to prepare, workers lost their income, and some couldn’t access their superannuation in Australia. In roughly the same period, some 8,000 seasonal workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste were working in Australia as part of the seasonal worker program. Seasonal farm workers are essential to farms across WA and Australia. Covid-19 travel restrictions mean Australia faces a shortage of farm labour for summer harvest. Many workers choose to return again and again. “I think that’s the thing – they should be proud of who they are, and they should bring their culture, and come here and stay close to the community. “We harvested through the first wave and on the fly had to adopt policies that didn’t exist for global pandemics,” Simon Dornauf, the manager at Hillwood Berries tells Guardian Australia. Asked what happens if anyone in that hall dormitory gets sick, he says that’s unlikely given how unaffected by the virus the islands have been, but the farm will be doing daily temperature checks and isolating anyone with symptoms. A group of 200 workers from Vanuatu may be about to get the green light to work in the Northern Territory, according to one minister, and there is widespread support for the idea from both Pacific region governments and workers. Dos Santos is hoping to come back to Australia where she has also left a fiance – a Tongan man she met on the farm, who is awaiting Australian citizenship. Once in Australia the workers are helped to connect with local services and churches, but again it varies and, in some cases, Union Aid Abroad says employers allow community groups to effectively subsidise their pastoral care obligations. He found work on a mango farm up north and, while he misses his children, he has been able to make much more money. Over dinner dozens of workers dish the dirt on what it’s like to be part of this multicultural, temporary community. In Orrvale, Victoria, 35-year-old Togi Ugapo from the Samoan island of Savaii and 41-year-old Leleiga Fetui from Falease’ela both support young children and parents back home. This needs to change. Employment is available for both skilled and unskilled workers in a variety of areas, including: fruit picking grain harvesting cattle station work. Photograph: Chikara Yoshida. Unions and labour organisations argue that while there are benefits to both sides in the arrangement, to truly help our Pacific neighbours we should be creating jobs in the Pacific, not making migration a necessity for work opportunities. Some workers share hotel rooms but a large group are in makeshift dorms in the venue’s function halls, with temporary dividers creating rooms. He says “this is a life-changing opportunity for us”. Offers a program to travel, work and travel in Australia and/or New Zealand for the summer or up to two years (one year in each country). Australian workers are eligible for up to $6000. “The money … is to support my family, to pay for my sister and brothers’ school, and also to build them a house in my village,” he says. Photograph: Chikara Yoshida, “I’m trying to help more people [come here], because the government has got maybe 5,000 people who want to come over.”. You can even do a harvest circuit and work your way right around Australia. Comparing the program with other sources of agricultural labour, a University of Adelaide report found that workers were far less likely to be exploited than backpackers, a view seconded by a government taskforce. The emotions are amplified by deep homesickness. Photograph: Bernardino Soares. We first started reporting for this story in early 2019. Last modified on Sat 17 Oct 2020 20.46 BST. View all our seasonal vacancies now with new jobs added daily! Seasonal workers must only do the work in the industry covered by their visa and cannot work for themselves or anyone other than their sponsor (employer). Such a path would be imminently realistic for Australia. 8.3K likes. Those who stayed behind found work on other farms when their usual season ended but were separated from their families by oceans, and with no idea when they might be reunited. 117 repatriated passengers arrived at Fua’amotu International Airport from Brisbane, Australia this afternoon. The PSWPS is a three year program with 2,500 seasonal worker visa permits for the Pacific Islanders. Once seasonal and PLS workers have entered Australia, they can apply for a tax file number (TFN) using their passport and visa details. “Last year when I went back to Timor I helped my father and my mother and built a house for them.”, Antonio Pinto at Hillwood Berries. Overseas seasonal workers have been locked out of New South Wales under tighter border restrictions introduced last night. Hailing from various tropical islands in the Pacific, everyone’s rugged up against the mild chill of a Tasmanian summer. Affordable Accommodation for Seasonal Workers. The appetite for the program is huge but how the workers are recruited varies between farms and supply countries. The men and women who come from the Pacific to pick fruit and vegetables often do so at a high personal cost. Everyone eats catered meals together at long tables in a dark and quirky dining room. Photograph: Carly Earl. Certainly more will not be coming any time soon. “The fact that there’s such a valuable contributor to your business, you’d be silly to put it at risk.”. We had intended to follow people like Dos Santos, Pinto and Aiseke back home to their communities to see what impact their earnings and their absence was having. In 2013 personal remittances made up almost 20% of Samoa’s GDP. One solution would be to reactivate and expand the seasonal worker program as a priority. Of the remainder, running low on funds and missing their families, many will leave as soon as they can. Harvest and Farm work. The program is not uncontroversial. But post-Covid, both growers and workers tell us they’ve heard of worrying conditions from their former colleagues who found work interstate. “It’s not hard for me and I earn money, then go back. One of the Hillwood Berries workers. In 2018 the World Bank recommended Australia scrap the backpacker regional work requirement and expand the seasonal worker program. Antonio Pinto, stayed in Australia. “They’ll be able to make three years worth of income in 18 months, and I think they’re happy with that but it’s been tough to not to get back and see families and children,” he says. Petulisa Motulalo was one of the first Tongan women to come to Burlington Berries farm in Cressy, south of Launceston. This is very different from the situation with backpackers where there is not even a requirement that the government be informed before they are hired by a farmer. One of the strengths of the program is that only authorised employers can participate, and authorisations can be removed without any court intervention, a strong incentive for them to play by the rules. In essence the issue is this: a large proportion of Australia’s harvest labour is done by people from abroad who are unable to travel. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is urging Kiwis to seek work in New Zealand in the wake of Australia's bid to pinch seasonal workers from abroad with $2000 relocation incentives. How many will be left is unknown, but it will be a lot fewer than 32,000. Requirements relating to the job offer. The workers flew out of the country at 5 pm on Wednesday on a special chartered flight operated by Virgin. Overseas seasonal workers have been locked out of New South Wales under tighter border restrictions introduced last night. Ben Doherty’s reporting on the sad story of Silas Aru from Vanuatu who found himself underfed and underpaid in central Queensland makes for essential reading, but it is significant that when it came to light this case ended up in the federal court. Numbers were increasing every year; it had become an indispensable workforce for Australia’s agricultural industry and an economic boon for some Pacific communities. Tour Guide: There are many tourism companies who hire backpackers as tour guides especially if they are multilinguistic, some companies may even provide travel expenses. Suifua and Siniva – Leleiga’s mother and wife – at home in Samoa. 1,000s of New Jobs Added Every Day. Photograph: Darren James, Kim Slater says her Launceston company, Linx employment, takes an active role in recruitment and pastoral care. Growers of citrus fruits, grapes, garlic etc often have difficulty finding sufficient workers at harvest time, harvest work provides variable seasonal work all over Australia. While Australia’s Pacific neighbours have so far escaped the worst of the outbreak, the shutdown has had a huge impact. Though these numbers are fuzzy, in the context of our current predicament their meaning is not. Togi Ugapo from the island of Savaii, western Samoa, is on his second. PLS workers are protected by Australian workplace laws, in the same manner as Australian workers. 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