WORKING OUT: Growers now have specific directions on how to manage an incoming workforce while meeting health and safety guidelines during COVID-19.
WORKING OUT: Growers now have specific directions on how to manage an incoming workforce while meeting health and safety guidelines during COVID-19.

Working opportunities open up for backpackers

GROWERS will have no trouble sourcing labour with the Queensland Government working closely with industry and labour hire companies to ensure farm workers are readily available.

Under the newly announced backpacker framework for the state, growers now have specific directions on how to manage an incoming workforce while meeting health and safety requirements.

Amiens grower Rodney Wren said with his harvest season just about to wrap up, the only concern he had moving forward would be looking for some new sets of hands around November.

“It (coronavirus) hadn’t worried us at all this season,” Mr Wren said.

“It will be next season where we might have some troubles.”

He said once backpackers finished a season they generally left the region, making the employment process tricky.

“We aren’t too sure about what will be happening with overseas travel.

“Whether we will have backpackers in our region is another question.”

He said if backpackers weren’t accessible he would be looking for anyone he could get.

“We’ll just get people from wherever I suppose.

“Play it out and see how we go.”

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said economic modelling based on survey data and advice from labour hire companies confirmed the required workforce was on hand and keen to start.

“Our agricultural sector needs workers, whether they be local or coming interstate, to guarantee a steady supply of fresh produce,” Mr Furner said.

The survey to determine workforce needs was conducted by Queensland peak horticulture body Growcom, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Growcom CEO David Thomson said finding the right people in the right place and at the right time had always been problematic for horticulture.

“Coronavirus has only magnified this challenge,” Mr Thomson said.

“As an industry we’re obviously primarily concerned with the health and safety of our employees, but we’re also very mindful of the wellbeing of the residents of regional towns.

“For this reason we are encouraging growers to consider their workforce needs now, advertise jobs early, and wherever they can.

“While there are lots of people seeking harvesting employment, people should not just turn up to farms unannounced.”

If you are employing only Queensland residents who are working near their home and staying in their permanent residence, it is not mandatory to have a workplace health management plan but you are still encouraged to have one in place.

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