SEASONAL HEALTH PLAN: Blueberry pickers April Tseng, Cherry Ho, and Amber Lee working at Smart Berries Plantation at Mundubbera. Picture: Lachie Millard
SEASONAL HEALTH PLAN: Blueberry pickers April Tseng, Cherry Ho, and Amber Lee working at Smart Berries Plantation at Mundubbera. Picture: Lachie Millard

Virus laws for seasonal workers ‘too late’

GROWERS in the North Burnett believe coronavirus tracing legislation has come six weeks too late for them.

New directives given by Australia's chief health officer starting on May 5 will mean growers will have to implement a health management plan.

This plan applies for businesses who employ seasonal workers in agriculture, fishing, labouring, and more.

Gayndah and District Fruitgrowers Association secretary Judy Shepherd believes however this legislation has come too late to have any reasonable impact.

"It's six weeks too late for the season, as our seasons have already started," Mrs Shepherd said.

"Most growers have had their employees for more than two weeks now, and it's a tough thing for farmers to enforce."

The directive is centred around pickers providing accurate documentation about their travels, their accommodation, and their employment while in Australia.

Employers will also be required to undertake daily checks of their employees to determine the presence of absence of coronavirus symptoms.

Even though these directives have been implemented to help stop the spread of the virus, backpackers will now find themselves in unsavoury circumstances according to Mrs Shepherd.

"How does someone who hasn't lived in a campsite or hostel provide documentation on where they've lived for the past 14 days?" Mrs Shepherd questioned.

"Those living in their cars or in tents are going to find themselves in a difficult spot."

Of the itinerant workers she has encountered, several have expressed their interest in travelling to places such as Bowen or Bundaberg to find work.

Mrs Shepherd believes these workers may very well end up displaced.

"These employers are going to ask for this documentation, and they're not going to get the jobs," Mrs Shepherd said.

"So now they're going to leave their accommodation here for potentially no work."

The new directives for travelling workers can be found here.



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