Worker says farmers prefer backpackers over locals

LOCAL WORKERS: Gavin Tronc is calling for locals to get more farm work instead of the industry giving it all to backpackers.
LOCAL WORKERS: Gavin Tronc is calling for locals to get more farm work instead of the industry giving it all to backpackers. Max Fleet

GAVIN Tronc has 10 years' experience working on farms but the Bundaberg resident says he is having trouble securing any sort of farm work in the region.

He believes farmers are favouring backpackers instead of giving locals a fair go.

"Ten or 11 years ago this was never a problem. Nowadays, no local has a chance in securing any sort of farm work," he said.

Mr Tronc returned to Bundaberg two years ago after working as a delivery driver in Toowoomba and has applied for more than 25 different farm jobs without a single call back.

"I moved back to the town to be closer to my daughter and I have had great difficulty in gaining any sort of work," he said.

"I've tried everywhere but would really love to secure a farm job because I am experienced and it is immediate work."

The local man has applied for farm work through the Australian JobSearch website and Centrelink but has repeatedly been told he is not suitable.

Centrelink basically told me that I have to pay $110 to be part of a backpacker association and then I might be considered for farm work.

"Centrelink basically told me that I have to pay $110 to be part of a backpacker association and then I might be considered for farm work, which I think is just wrong," he said. "I have even travelled to farms to ask the farmers themselves if any work is available and I have been rushed off the site and told they will only hire backpackers."

Fed up with the constant rejection, Mr Tronc decided to start up a Facebook group at the start of January called GT Locals Picking group.

The group already has 40 members made up of local people who are trying to secure farm work.

"I'm really surprised at the response I received from this," Mr Tronc said.

"I also put a post on a Jobs Wanted Facebook page and had over 70 comments.

"Part of me thought locals didn't care about farm work but this just goes to show there are so many people out there willing and wanting to do the job."

Mr Tronc believes the lack of local employment on farms is due to backpackers being cheaper to hire and readily accessible.

He also said locals have a bad stigma when it comes to farm work.

"I've been told one of the reasons behind it is because locals are unreliable. That might be true for a small group but there are a hell of a lot of us out there who are desperate for the work and willing to work hard," he said.

"We should be given the opportunity to prove ourselves."

Mr Tronc said he will continue to actively look for farm work and also try to help the members of his Facebook group to secure work.

"If nothing comes out of this I will then have to weigh up my options," he said.

"I don't want to move away from my daughter but it is looking more and more like that is the only way I am going to be able to find work."

Topics:  backpackers editors picks farms farm work

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