National Cabinet has agreed to adopt the Northern Territory's targeted trial recruitment of workers from overseas under the Seasonal Worker Program.
Earlier this month it was announced the NT mango industry would have a trial of up to 170 workers from Vanuatu available to them to fill labour shortfalls for the mango harvest.
But farmers fear recruiting 170 pickers from Vanuatu does not put much of a dent into the 1000 pickers needed.
The NT Government has been forced to appeal to the patriotic spirit of Territorians to sign up for the job.
One Katherine mango farm needs 60 people for work starting the first week of October.
The farm says the workers may be needed to work 6-7 days per week, 10/14 hours per day for eight weeks.
One employer says a standard rate of $24.80 is paid per hour, likely before tax is taken out.
But on one estimate for hours available to harvest - a picker could earn a low $12,000 or a high of almost $20,000 for the two months.
It all depends on how many hours you work.
Department of Primary Industry and Resources and Northern Territory Farmers Association have launched a local worker attraction campaign encouraging Territorians to be local heroes by signing up for fruit picking jobs to help farmers get their produce to market.
Speaking on the national cabinet endorsement, Senator Sam McMahon said: "It is fantastic that the trial I have brought to the NT mango industry is now available to all States and Territories.
"This recognises the innovation shown by Northern Territory producers in overcoming barriers to achieving this years' harvest. I thank Minister Littleproud for the interest and faith he has shown in NT agriculture."
Annually, between 2000 and 2500 mango harvest workers from regions that include Timor-Leste, Fiji, Vanuatu and other Asian/Pacific nations, come to the NT through either the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) or the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).
This year, this traditional workforce has been blocked by restricted movement across Australian and international borders because of the pandemic.
The Northern Territory Trial involves up to 170 workers recruited under the Seasonal Worker Program from Vanuatu, approved employers and growers under the Seasonal Work Program, existing labour market testing requirements under the program must be met along with requirements in respect to health insurance, accommodation and workers' welfare and well-being and 14 days mandatory quarantine at Manigurr-ma Village Quarantine Facility, Howard Springs approved COVID Management Plans.
The Federal Government is facilitating the trial through the reopening of the Seasonal Worker Program, and the processing and approval of necessary visas.
Senator McMahon, welcomed the announcement at the time.
"I've been working closely with NT mango producers and multiple Federal Ministers since February to find ways for industry to retain access to their traditional labour force.
"The trial of 170 is a long way from the approximately 2000 workers needed however this is the limit the NT Government has agreed to at this time".
The decision by National Cabinet to endorse the NT trial means access to seasonal workers can be opened up to farmers in other states.
"Whilst the NT is my main priority, I know that farmers across the country are also anxious over access to their usual workforce so if they can benefit from the work that myself and Minister Littleproud have done on this, it will be a win for agriculture." Dr McMahon said.
The Federal Government is committed to protecting the health of Australians, supporting businesses and jobs and maintaining the provision of essential goods and services while we combat the COVID-19 virus.
Dr McMahon added, "I encourage anyone who is looking for work to contact Harvest Trail (https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest) as jobs for Australians are always our first priority.
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