The Australian government threw farmers a lifeline earlier this month when it announced the extension of visas for foreign workers in agriculture and food processing during the COVID-19 crisis, but workers will still need to self-isolate for 14 days when moving to a new region.
The extension allows growers access to working travelers and gives them access to workers within the Pacific Labour Scheme, which permits Pacific Islanders to work in Australia, and the Seasonal Worker Programme, which authorizes Pacific Islanders and Timorese to fill employment gaps that cannot be filled by locals.
The visa changes provide working travelers in the agricultural sector an exemption from the restrictions that limits work with an agricultural employer to six months.
In response to the announcement, Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) president Fiona Simson expressed her gratitude to the government for understanding the importance of foreign workers as farm laborers.See more: Coronavirus Crisis
Simson pointed out that farmers would still prefer to employ local workers though, and she encouraged Australians who are unemployed to consider farm work where possible.
Virgin Australia pilots who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis have reportedly started working as farm laborers already.
But Simson said Australians are not very interested in farm work at a time when people want to stay close to their families.
To further assist the country’s growers and workers during this time, the NFF has developed a COVID-19 Workplace Guide.
The handbook provides guidelines on industrial relations, hygiene practices, workers’ accommodations, quarantine and more.
This resource can be downloaded from the Australian Olive Association (AOA) website, which provides growers with additional resources to manage COVID-19 challenges.