The Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme are a win-win for Australia and sending countries, helping to fill labour shortages when employers can’t find local workers, and providing opportunities for workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste to earn an income.
The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) enables employers in the agricultural sector to recruit unskilled and low-skilled workers for up to nine months.
Workers recruited through the SWP can return to Australia after three months, reducing the costs and time associated with retraining staff.
The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) builds on the success of the SWP, providing workers with visas for one to three years which gives growers additional flexibility in workforce planning.
The PLS is open to all industries in rural and regional Australia to recruit low skilled and semi-skilled workers.
Through both programs, workers are placed for a fixed employment term, providing growers with a stable workforce to meet both seasonal and non-seasonal employment needs.
Farmers are taking up the opportunity to recruit both SWP and PLS workers to complement their mix of locals and working holiday makers.
PNG workers in Queensland One farm realising the potential of Pacific labour mobility is Skybury Tropical Plantation in Mareeba.
Skybury grows coffee and red papaya on 182 hectares (450 acres) and like other farms in the district, they faced a shortage of local labour and so joined the SWP in early 2018, recruiting workers from PNG.
Skybury’s Business Development Manager, Paul Fagg said the experience has been positive.
“The team leaders of our picking crews will argue each morning over who gets the PNG workers because they’re so good at what they do,” he said.
“They’ve really brought enthusiasm to the operation and a great work ethic as well. Our longer-term plan is to bring more Pacific Island workers over, identifying those with managerial skills and transitioning them over to the Pacific Labour Scheme so we can have them here for longer.”
Research shows high productivity Research conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) in 2018 found that the productivity of workers from the SWP was on average 20 per cent higher than that of working holiday makers based on fruit picking tasks.
Furthermore, it attributed higher productivity levels of seasonal workers to their “physical capabilities and motivation level; as seasonal workers aim to earn a good income to support their families and therefore they are hard-working, reliable and willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”