“Bungling stalls plan to import fruit pickers
Mark Metherell Sydney Morning Herald
January 12, 2009
THE long-awaited trial to recruit guest workers from Pacific islands to pick fruit in areas short of labour has been hit by delays and could now be sunk by the economic downturn.
Six months ago the Government said the first migrant workers would arrive with the onset of the picking season before Christmas.
As part of a trial, 100 workers were to go to Griffith in the Riverina and Swan Hill in Victoria to pick and pack fruit, the first wave in a migrant labour force expected to grow to 2500.
The Government has signed agreements with Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu, but the arrival of workers from these countries is still subject to negotiations with labour hire companies and the Federal Government has declined to give a start-up date.
A Government source also cautioned about the effect on the scheme of the economic slowdown, saying the Pacific island workers would be employed only where there was a proven demand due to significant labour shortages.”