Have you got harvest labour in-hand?Business Management
Kim Layton is Managing Director at Linx Employment Tasmania, an Approved Employer under the federal government’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
As both a labour provider and grower alongside husband Troy at Parramatta Creek Orchard, Kim has insight into the pandemic labour situation, and some advice for how growers can still secure seasonal workers ahead of harvest.
Can growers still access labour through the PALM scheme?
Kim said it’s not too late to access seasonal workers via an Approved Employer.
The PALM website has a list of labour hire companies and direct employers here.
If you’re still in need of labour, Kim recommends contacting a number of suppliers in the first instance, providing:
- How many workers you will need
- The work type
- Where you are based, and
- The period of time you will need them on your farm.
According to Kim, it’s best to reach out now to give labour hire companies as much lead time as possible.
“They don’t have to be based in your state – many labour hire companies move their workers around for seasonal opportunities in different regions and industries,” Kim said. “You might also source through multiple approved employers. If you need 50 workers, one provider might have 20 that suit your timeframe, another could have 30.”
You don’t necessarily need to have accommodation and transport, if the Approved Employer manages this instead.
If you plan to provide workers with accommodation and transport, remember this will need to be approved by DFAT ahead of time.
“The situation is always changing, so keep an eye on the PALM website,” Kim said.
What’s working in Tassie?
“I’d guess around 70-75 per cent of ag labour in Tasmania right now is seasonal workers, with a lot of growers employing seasonal workers for the first time,” Kim said.
“Workers have moved from strawberries to apple thinning, cherry picking, next will be other types of berry work, in March we’ll move to apple picking, then vineyards. It’s great to give them a variety of work to learn different skills, and let them be a tourist in different places.”
Kim also said the response of the Tasmanian government has made the management of Covid and seasonal labour much smoother and safer.
“It’s more challenging in other states. We’ve had time to prepare for Covid and our government’s been extremely responsive to the needs of the sector,” Kim said. “They’ve financed people coming in from the Pacific Islands, provided hotel quarantine, access to tests, and they assist us with quarantine if we can’t house workers that have tested positive in shared hostel living while infectious.”
You can read more about Linx’s approach to worker wellbeing in this article from the Spring edition of AFG.