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Pacific Labour Scheme / Seasonal Worker Programme for Agriculture

Project overview

**Important Update**

On Monday 18 October, the Queensland Government released the COVID-19 Vaccine Plan To Unite Families. The plan flags stages to reach quarantine-free travel into Queensland for double vaccinated people that can demonstrate negative tests for COVID-19 72 hours before arrival.

With regard to the quarantine requirements for workers under the Pacific LabourScheme and Seasonal Worker Programme entering Queensland, there is no change to current arrangements.

We envisage the current arrangements to be in place until at least December 2021, and possibly beyond. However, as the COVID-19 space is constantly evolving, we are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date information, and if this situation changes, we will continue to keep you informed.

We understand that planning for your emergent workforce requirements is important, and we encourage you to continue to work with our team on the application process.

Check out our latest video with Approved Employer (AE) Rugby Farms!

It's in our video section on our right hand side bar. Thanks to everyone who participated!

More about the PLS/SWP programme:

Queensland has opted into the Australian Government's recommencement of the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) to address the expected labour shortage in agribusiness. Our main focus for meeting labour shortages is to attract and train Queenslanders. However, workforce shortages are still expected in this sector. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) leads the quarantine compliance for workers, supporting industry with their application processes.

There are three key requirements to participate in the PLS and SWP in Queensland:

  • Employers must be an approved employer and receive Australian Government approval for their recruitment plan.
  • Approved employers must receive Queensland Government approval for their recruitment plan. For on-farm or regional-facility quarantine, this plan must include an International Quarantine Plan endorsed by Queensland's Chief Health Officer.
  • Approved employers must coordinate with each other to ensure their proposals will fit within the cap on the total number of sites where workers are quarantined at any one time.

Approved employers will need to allow at least 12 weeks between lodging a recruitment proposal and the arrival of workers in Queensland—this is due to the high demand for workers across Australia and New Zealand, and the additional recruitment approvals due to COVID-19.

DAF regionally-based Agriculture Coordination Officers (ACO) and industry-based Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN) officers are available to assist enterprises navigate the approval process. To contact your closest ACO or QAWN officer, ring DAF on 13 25 23 and they will make the connection.

October newsletter out now!

Our October newsletter is available now in the drop down list ... check it out for the latest in regional facilities approvals, Christmas quarantine arrangements, smaller quarantine cohort sizes and welcoming workers from new nations!

Advice to Approved Employers: Christmas/New Year Quarantine Arrangements & Recruitment timelines

In line with the Pacific Labour Facility's Christmas Shutdown advice, Queensland will implement a no flight period for on-farm and regional quarantine from 6 December 2021. Queensland’s first flight post-Christmas/New Year will begin after 11 January 2022.

Changes to the quarantine requirements for quarantining workers under the PLS/SWP

From 24 August 2021, there are now additional requirements for Approved Employers who wish to bring workers into Queensland under the PLS/SWP programs. These additional requirements are contained in the new Seasonal Workers International Quarantine Plans and Checklist Direction and form part of the International Quarantine Plan (IQP) completed by the Approved Employer.

Catch up with our Approved Employers

Andrew Serra – FNQ banana and avocado grower - shares his experience

*Article courtesy of Australian Banana Growers’ Council

Andrew Serra has spent a lot of time on the phone over the past 12-months. While this isn’t unusual for most business owners, it’s the subject of those phone calls that has changed. “We’ve been working with [labour hire company] Madec non-stop,” he said. “I’ve been on the phone with them every second day, just pushing.”

Mr Serra, who grows bananas and avocados, has been looking for workers since this time last year. He’s managed to get by with current staff but describes the situation as a constant battle. Thankfully, he’s now secured a number of seasonal workers through the hotel quarantine system.
“I know a number of farms who use these workers and have got very few people currently. The turnover is massive and it’s draining on the farm owners, obviously, but also on their support staff and management team. From our experience, it’s not only us but also our supervisors and managers have been struggling since Christmas.”

Mr Serra describes the current situation as an employee’s market. The few that are looking for work can pick and choose, and agriculture is often far down their list desirable jobs. For Mr Serra, the solution lies in working with authorities to set up more quarantine hubs and ensuring appropriate vaccinations are available to those coming from COVID-free countries to work. 

“Unfortunately, though, it’s going to be user pays,” he said. “The days when you could pick up a worker fresh into the country, without having to pay for quarantine or anything else, are likely done, for the next few years at least. Some can afford it, some can’t. I understand that. It’s a commercial decision people will have to make. It’s not a cheap decision. But after going through the process, there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel – productivity and workplace culture has improved." It’s not over yet, though. There’s always going to be competition with other industries and backpackers can pick and choose their path. With many banana businesses struggling, particularly those that are smaller, Mr Serra’s advise is to work with reputable Approved Employers to give you the best chance of accessing new workers arriving into the country.


2021 will go down as a birthday with a difference for Barrie Mackay from Mackays Bananas

Barrie spent his special day in quarantine alongside 60 workers from Vanuatu who have come over through the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) to help meet labour shortages at Mackays Tully farm. 

While Barrie wanted a no-fuss birthday, the workers weren’t going to miss a chance to sing happy birthday and drape him in their national flag. They then presented him with a handmade garland using material sourced from the accommodation’s garden.  A special cake delivery at the daily food drop, organised by Barrie’s wife Nadia, was icing on his birthday celebrations.

The Queensland Government is coordinating quarantine requirements for employers seeking to bring agricultural workers into Queensland from low-risk Pacific Nations under the Pacific Labour Scheme/Seasonal Worker Program. Approved employers such as Mackays Bananas nominate the country the workers would come from, the proposed quarantine arrangements and where the workers will stay and work after quarantine. “The ability to access workers from our low-risk Pacific nations has certainly helped us out,” Barrie said. “Since our borders closed to manage the pandemic, we’ve been faced with challenges around workforce and there’s no silver bullet. As an industry, we will continue to need overseas workers, local workers and backpackers who are still in the country.”

Queensland was the first state to allow on-farm quarantine. And since October 2020, DAF has assisted with welcoming 3,000 workers who have completed quarantine.