A new Tripartite Farm Labor Task Force, established at the Jobs and Skills Summit, met for the first time today to help tackle labor challenges agricultural work.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Murray Watt said the task force was designed to bring together employer groups, unions and government in a spirit of collaboration to address key issues. labor.
“Agriculture is an industry with incredible opportunities and a significant source of employment in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia,” said Minister Watt.
“But for several years it has struggled to ensure that employers can get the workers they need and to ensure that those workers are protected and respected in the work they undertake.”
Minister Watt said the Albanian Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit in early September had brought together different parties to sign the Tripartite Declaration on Agricultural Labor and agreed on a way forward to address workforce challenges impacting the Australian agricultural sector.
“To continue this spirit of collaboration, this new tripartite task force will seek solutions to improve skills, attract, protect and retain workers in the agriculture and processing sectors.
“The members of the task force have been selected to represent both employers and employees and will be responsible for consulting with the wider community.
“The task force will operate for the next 12 months, achieving results that will benefit industry, workers, farmers and the nation.
“The task force will ensure that Australian agriculture benefits from the outcomes of the government’s Jobs and Skills Summit and will inform the upcoming Jobs White Paper.”
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said agriculture needed to see a way forward, after years of labor shortages.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t get it right, we will see reduced agricultural production and consumers will see these impacts on our supermarket shelves,” Ms Simson said.
“We want to attract the best and the brightest to our industry, we want to make sure we can attract Australians to our industry, and we also want to make sure we can have agriculture-friendly visas.
“It is essential for us that we are an industry of choice.”
Australian Workers Union Secretary Daniel Walton said the task force is an opportunity for unions to work with industry and government to find ways to address issues affecting the sector.
“We have been saying for years that we want real solutions to properly protect farm workers and this group offers a way forward.
“There’s a real desire across the board to try to reach out and find meaningful solutions to the big issues we face in the agriculture industry,” Walton said.
NFF Horticulture Council chief executive Richard Shannon said it was an opportunity to see positive results in the agricultural workforce.
“Our industry has been hugely supportive of the expansion of the Pacific Labor Mobility Scheme to Australia to strengthen our seasonal workforce and led the way in the implementation of the Fair Farms initiative to improve work practices,” said Shannon.
“But I’m looking forward to exploring what more we can achieve together here.”
United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said he looked forward to playing a constructive role in addressing the challenges of workers’ voices and labor shortages in the industry.
“As a key player in the fresh produce supply chain, we are very pleased to be involved in this process,” Kennedy said.
“This dialogue is a good step forward provided by the Minister, and we believe it is important that all parties are part of the conversation. Some of the things we have to do and some of the conversations we will have will be difficult, but we are ready for it.
“The agriculture industry is very important to the Australian community, particularly within our regional communities and it is important that we support agriculture workers to ensure the continued sustainability of the industry.”
The members of the working group are:
- Senator the Hon. Murray Watt, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
- Andrew Metcalfe AO, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
- Fiona Simson, President, National Farmers Federation.
- Michele O’Neil, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions.
- Richard Shannon, Managing Director, NFF Horticulture Council
- Dan Walton, National Secretary, Australian Workers Union.
- Ann Gardiner, National Council Member, Australian Dairy Farmers.
- Tim Kennedy, National Secretary, United Workers Union.
- Patrick Hutchinson, CEO, Australian Meat Industry Council.
Matt Journeaux, Federal Secretary, Australasia Meat Workers Union.
The group will be moderated by James Flintoft, a board member and former senior manager of Victoria’s Department of Agriculture, with years of experience in the public sector and development space.
Public policy expert and former chair of the National Farm Labor Advisory Committee John Azarias will also serve as the minister’s special adviser on this task force.