Vanuatu workers arrive in WA to fill farm labour shortages

By December 22, 2020 No Comments

On December 21 Western Australia (WA) welcomed 154 Ni-Vanuatu nationals to harvest crops and support local food processing, after completing a 14-day quarantine period.

The workers will travel to ten farms across the state, to work in destinations including Gingin, Pinjarra, Myalup, Harvey, Mt Barker, Pemberton, Manjimup, Katanning and Narrogin.

30 of these workers have been recruited under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and will be work in Australia for up to three years.

The remaining 124 workers are contracted under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and will work for a nine-month period.

The 31 females and 123 males will provide time-critical labour for farm businesses facing workforce challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will help harvest fresh local vegetables.

vegetablesWA CEO John Shannon said his team had worked extensively with the WA Government to restart the programmes.

“We are really pleased this first flight has landed and a second flight is already scheduled because whilst this will not fill all of the immediate shortages, we hope to work with government to continue these flights as the need arises,” Mr Shannon said.

“Only Approved Employers can bring in these workers, which means correct wages and working conditions will be observed.

“Some growers prefer using the services of an approved labour hire company, whereas others choose to be their own Approved Employer.”

Mr Shannon explained that Approved Employers participating in the pilot have covered the full costs of quarantine.

“The industry believes that the safety of our fellow West Australians is paramount, which is why these workers are being quarantined in the same way as all other international arrivals,” he said.

vegetablesWA Labour Scheme Facilitator Melissa Denning said growers that wish to become Approved Employers under the scheme are encouraged to start the process as soon as possible because the application process is rigorous.

“The processing of applications can take up to nine months, and involves checks through numerous government agencies, to ensure that only compliant employers are eligible to recruit under the schemes,” Ms Denning said.

“Data from the 2020 season has indicated that Seasonal Workers are 20 per cent more productive than working holiday makers, commonly referred to as backpackers.

“Most approved employers also gain the benefit of the same workers returning year after year, which means increased productivity.”

A further 162 workers are scheduled to arrive in WA from Vanuatu on January 7 and will also be required to undertake a quarantine period.

Media contacts:
John Shannon, vegetablesWA chief executive officer
08 9486 7515 / 0488 111 526

Amber Atkinson, vegetablesWA communications and policy officer
08 9486 7515 / 0438 123 562