Samoa among 10 Pacific states labour scheme

Samoa is among 10 Pacific island states who will supply some 15,000 seasonal workers to meet Australia’s critical labour shortage.

Australia's Pacific Minister Alex Hawke reportedly announced the labour program in the Australian parliament last Thursday. 

"That means 15,000 eligible job-ready workers, who have experience in Australia, who've been pre-vetted, are ready to come to Australia and supply our markets," he told parliament, reports Australian Associated Press.

"While we fill the shortages in the agricultural sector we know those vital remittances really do make a great contribution to GDP in countries in the region.”

The seasonal workers will be sourced from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Vanuatu and East Timor, whom Mr Hawke claims have agreed to restart their schemes. 

Mr Hawke reportedly said the labour programs were critical for agriculture as harvest season approaches, and the Australian federal government will work with states and territories to recruit the workers under the schemes. 

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour [MCIL] Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Lemalu Nele Leilua, confirmed in an interview with the Samoa Observer last week that Australian Ministers Marise Payne and Alex Hawke wrote to the Samoa Government to query Samoa’s availability to restart the labour mobility scheme.

“They sent a request whether Samoa would like to opt in for restarting of the Labour Mobility Programme,” Lemalu said.

“We replied to them that, yes, Samoa is interested, and now four countries have opted in.”

The next step now is to wait for approved Australian employers to write to Samoa to officially request the workers.

According to the Australian Associated Press, Australian National Farmers' Federation chief Tony Mahar and Backpacker and Youth Tourism Advisory Panel representative Wendi Aylward proposed a three-stage plan for the return of labour.

All backpackers would be tested for coronavirus before leaving their home country and quarantine in Australia for two weeks.

Selected agencies specialising in youth travel, with a focus on farm and care work, would have charge of the three-stage plan, the representatives suggested.

Under the plan, rules would then be relaxed and the programme would be extended into more states across Australia as domestic border restrictions ease and more international travel bubbles are created.

The final stage would retain testing and quarantine requirements but foreign workers would be allowed to travel independently with work arranged on arrival.

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