Statement attributable to Jannette Armstrong, United Workers Union Farms Director, regarding the National Cabinet update on the Agriculture Workers’ Code.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud presented an agricultural code to the National Cabinet today.
While this is a positive move, it does not go far enough to meaningfully address the labour crisis in our horticulture sector. Without steps to resolve and regularise the visa status of tens of thousands of farmworkers who have been working and residing in Australia for years, many workers will still not be able to cross borders.
Without a visa amnesty, too many farmworkers will remain unemployed and the high quality, local fresh fruit and vegetables Australians need will be left to rot in the fields. Despite paying taxes in Australia, these workers have had no access to Federal Government support during the COVID-19 downturn – no JobKeeper, no JobSeeker – and have been cut off from their only source of income: legitimate work.
Financial support from both the Federal Government and industry will also be essential to help cover quarantine and travel costs for these low paid workers who do not have a safety net in place to be able to do so.
The United Workers Union stands ready to work constructively with farmers, employers, and all levels of government to help protect these essential workers and Australia’s fresh food supply chain.
With harvest imminent, time is running out.