Visa extension provides certainty for farm workforce

Over the weekend, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced that the Government had decided to extend the visas of foreign workers already working in Australia pursuant to the Pacific Labour Scheme, Seasonal Worker Programmes, and Working Holiday Programmes.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and its members have been working collaboratively with the Government on the issue of farm workforce stability and safety for some time and welcomed the Government’s announcement as it provides certainty to farmers when planning for upcoming plantings and harvest.

The extension will also permit a continuity of business in the production of fresh produce which has proved crucial to the health and wellbeing of Australians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We thank Prime Minister Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister McCormack, Agriculture Minister Littleproud and Acting Minister for Immigration, Tudge for their understanding of the importance of foreign workers to the farm workforce,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

The farm sector relies on a combination of local and foreign workers to get fruit and vegetables picked and packed and ready for Australians to enjoy. Without international workers many farmers would be forced to leave produce to simply rot and die.

NFF President, Fiona Simson

As per Minister Littleproud’s announcement, Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers are able to extend their stay for 12 months to work for approved employers.

Working Holiday Makers will be exempt from the six-month limit with one employer and be eligible for a further visa to continue helping farmers get on with the job.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and many Australians are now without a job, Australian’s are also being encouraged to consider farm work where their circumstances permit.

Farmers would always prefer to employ local workers and at this time, when some many are now without a job, we encourage Australians to consider farm work where their circumstances permit

NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“However, for many reasons farm work doesn’t attract adequate interest from Australians.

“This is perhaps even more so now during times when travel between states and within some states, is restricted and when people are especially wanting to stay close to their families.

Australians can register their interest in farm work via Harvest Trail.

During this uncertain time, keeping families, workers and communities safe from the spread of COVID-19 is of upmost priority for Australian farmers.

To assist workers with managing the risk of COVID-19 spread the NFF has developed a COVID-19 Workplace Guide, which has been sent for review by the Chief Medical Officer.

The Guide outlines the considerations for farm business operators when welcoming new workers, addressing accommodation, quarantine and financial support.

It is vital that farm workers have accommodation that enables them to follow social distancing requirements.

It also contains essential information about the tightened social and hygiene practices required on farm and in staff living quarters. This includes how to respond should a worker either be suspected of having the virus or is in fact tested positive.

There is also a section on industrial relations detailing farmers rights and liabilities as employers.



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