Pacific worker scheme rolls out

Good news: About eight Goulburn Valley growers have used the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme so far, with more than 400 workers brought out on this year’s program intake, an increase from around 100 last year. Photo by Megan Fisher

Fruit Growers Victoria says the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme is alleviating workforce pressures for Victorian fruit growers.

The scheme allows eligible Australian businesses to hire workers from nine Pacific islands and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available.

Eligible businesses can recruit workers for seasonal jobs for up to nine months or for longer-term roles for between one and three years in unskilled, low-skilled and semi-skilled positions.

FGV chairman Mitchell McNab said the PALM scheme, formerly known as Seasonal Worker Program, had helped several growers across the Goulburn Valley and southern Victoria.

“About eight growers have used the program in the Goulburn Valley so far,” Mr McNab said.

“Overall, 400 workers have been brought out on this year’s program intake, an increase from around 100 last year.

“We’re hopeful that this rate of expansion can continue.”

Mr McNab called on the Federal Government to ensure changes to the program proposed for next month bring greater access and flexibility for growers.

“We want PALM to be accessible to all our grower members, not just the large operators,” he said.

“The workforce need is great across the whole industry, and the program should be designed with the flexibility to ensure it’s useable by smaller family farming operators.

“We’re keen to work with government on any program design issues that need fixing as it rolls out.”

Mr McNab said robust oversight and compliance systems were needed to ensure workers brought in under the program were well treated.

“As an industry, we’re concerned that this option won’t continue to be available if there are found to be cases of worker mistreatment under the seasonal worker program.

“FGV is doing all we can to educate our growers about the proper use of these options, so they are legally compliant and meeting the ethical standards of the community.

“However, there needs to be a strong system in place so the responsible department can make sure rogue operators aren’t misusing the program.”