Seasonal workers

Australian farms turn away from Vanuatu over border closures and stranded workers

It comes as the Vanuatu Opposition calls on the government to repatriate hundreds of seasonal workers who have been unable to return home for months.

With Vanuatu's borders closed for much of the pandemic, some seasonal workers have been in Australia and New Zealand for as long as two years now.

There are around 1000 in Australia and 600 in New Zealand waiting to fly home.

Vanuatu's Labour Commissioner, Murielle Meltenoven, said they needed to be patient, and that the government was set to announce new repatriation flights "very soon".

Absconding seasonal worker posters under review after backlash

Around 12,000 seasonal workers have come into Australia over the past year from Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Solomon Islands but of those, more than 1000 have absconded.

However, the government's campaign, which featured posters, faced serious public backlash, with critics saying it created fear and shame among workers.

Bundaberg Pastoral care worker Jeff Smith said the campaign was one of fear.

"Every word on that thing is fear driven, there is no compassion," he told Pacific Beat.

Calls for a crackdown on labour hire companies 'poaching' Pacific workers

In the last 18 months, around 12,000 workers have come into Australia from countries such as Vanuatu and Samoa.

But how many have stayed in the jobs, they were contracted to do?

ABC Rural has been told more than 1,000 of these workers have absconded, with many poached by labour hire companies that are not licensed to do so.

What's going wrong?

Speaking to RN, Richard Shannon from Growcom said across Australia, farmers were reporting seasonal workers suddenly leaving their jobs.

Seasonal worker advocates welcome minimum pay requirements

The ruling will include Pacific seasonal workers but advocates say more needs to be done to protect workers from exploitation.

Joe Karu from the Vanuatu National Workers Union welcomes the news, saying that previously the piece rate meant some seasonal workers couldn't keep up with the cost of living.

"It's very good news," he said.

Pacific labour expert Rochelle Lee Bailey from the Australian National University has examined the seasonal workers scheme since 2007 and said this decision is a long time coming.

Vanuatu authorities seize 50kg kava powder from seasonal workers

Kava importation is prohibited in Australia. There is an exemption that allows passengers (18 years or over) to travel with up to 4kg of kava (roots or dried form) into Australia for personal use only.

It is alleged that a parliamentarian is using the seasonal workers as a means of getting the products into Australia in the form of commercialisation the Vanuatu Daily Post reports.

According to the Acting Principal Biosecurity Officer (PBO) of the DOB, Sam Armstrong, only those who have a valid kava export licence and export facility can export.

Nearly 300 Ni-Vanautu workers arrive in New Zealand

As part of the government arrangment, RSE labourers will complete five days' isolation at their places of work instead of the normal two-week stay in hotel quarantine.

New Zealand Ethical Employers chairperson Tanya Pouwhare said the incoming workforce leave behind struggling families and economies at home.

She says they're cooperating with strict health measures to keep them safe from Covid.

Tanya Pouwhare said 150 RSE workers will arrive from Samoa on Saturday and in upcoming weeks, a Tongan contingent.


Seasonal work during pandemic not easy for ni-Vanuatu

Around 150 ni-Vanuatu landed in Christchurch on Monday for work in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme in New Zealand's South Island.

RSE work offers them a chance to earn money to help their families back home, while providing much needed labour for New Zealand's horticulture and viticulture sectors

Coming from a covid-free country, ni-Vanuatu workers are exempt from managed isolation and quarantine at New Zealand's border, and instead isolate at their workplace.

Vanuatu Seasonal Workers required to be fully vaccinated

Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven said ,“If any Ni-Vanuatu chooses to apply to join an Australia or NZ labour mobility scheme, they have the responsibility to ensure they are fully vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and communities here, and the communities they join abroad.”

“There is a transition time period in which seasonal workers will be allowed to depart if they received only one vaccine.”

“This is to enable seasonal workers who may not have time to receive both vaccinations, to still be able to travel to New Zealand or Australia in 2022.”

Vanuatu to trial in-country quarantine for seasonal workers

Australia’s Agriculture Minister David Littleproud told ABC’s AM program, earlier this week that the arrangement would include Vanuatu.

“This month we'll be trialling in country quarantine in Vanuatu."

"[South Australia'a] chief health officer has got comfortable with the risk profile of Vanuatu that they'll allow them to quarantine in country," he said.

Vanuatu’s Director of Foreign Affairs Yvone Basil said they’d hoped for it to start this month following talks with the Australian High Commission but so far no date has been set on when it would be rolled out.

Vanuatu concerned new Australia agriculture visa threatens seasonal workers

Vanuatu MP and former seasonal worker agent John Salong said the visa which starts next month and targets ten Southeast Asian countries would threaten the gains made by Vanuatu and Pacific nations in Australia.

"We are very concerned that now Australia is bringing in Asian workers into the horticultural sector, which is in direct competition with the Pacific seasonal workers program, which we have built over the years," he said.