The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) has evolved from 50 Tongan workers who arrived in February 2009 to more than 13,000 workers from 10 Pacific nations in 2019/2020. This report will firstly look at the background to the SWP and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS). The number of arriving workers has been steadily increasing by 40% each year. There are approximately 1,000 SWPs in WA annually. Secondly, the report will provide an analysis of the progress of the Labour Scheme Pilot Project prior and post the emergence of COVID-19.
The Pilot Project was able to assist eight Western Australian businesses to access the schemes to differing degrees until the closure of the international borders. Five key challenges were identified as added complications to accessing the programme in WA: the type of business entity; the reputation of labour hire companies; the long processing time for approval under the SWP; the requirement to source accommodation for the workers and the lack of it in regional areas; and, the uncertainty of hiring unknown overseas workers. The third section highlights four businesses in Western Australia and how they have been positively impacted by the SWP and PLS. The benefit of a stable and secure workforce has allowed these businesses to expand in productivity and revenue. Fruitico has been able to significantly expand their WA operations due to have a stable workforce at their main farm.
The final section looks at the recommendations for the improvement of the SWP, both at the Commonwealth and State level. The recommendations are a mixture of making the SWP more accessible to farms in WA.
The recommendations are:
1. Allow for SWP Regional Pilot in WA to allow AEs to moved workers around as required,
2. Creation of an SWP Fund to assist with superannuation and employer out of pocket,
3. Supporting a Training Facility in Timor-Leste to standardize the level of training before workers arrive in Australia,
4. Creation of a Labour Hire Company Regulation to ensure compliance and rebuild the trust level,
5. SWP Provisional approval to allow growers to access the scheme prior to full approval being granted, including extra reporting,
6. Further resourcing of the Labour Liaison position and expanding the role to incorporate the Tourism, Hospitality, Meat Processing and Aged Care Sectors.
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