Statement from AUSVEG Chair Bill Bulmer
While the local and global situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing, the importance of the fresh produce industry in supplying fresh, healthy produce to consumers remains critical to the health and well-being of every Australian.
AUSVEG will continue to operate as normal with minimal disruptions and the staff are available to talk to you and help. The AUSVEG office can still be reached by phone on 03 9882 0277, and staff can be reached by email and their mobiles.
AUSVEG has been actively working with governments and industry to ensure critical issues that growers are currently facing are immediately addressed, including:
- AUSVEG has been working with the NFF Horticulture Council and the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance for the government to extend visa arrangements for workers already in Australia (seasonal workers and backpackers) so that they can stay on farms – we have called this out publicly and also through representations directly with the government and shadow cabinet.
- We have been working to identify the worker shortage that would result from the prohibition of foreign workers coming into Australia and mapping out where a local workforce would be needed to inform policy formation.
- We are involved in discussions with the NFF, Fair Work Ombudsman and the wider industry around the Horticulture Award during this emergency time to allow workers to work longer on farms – to the benefit of both workers and growers.
- AUSVEG has been calling on State Governments to publicly classify the agriculture sector and the supply chain as essential services to ensure produce and other vital agricultural services can be transported across state borders.
Information for employers and employees
Fair Work Ombudsman
It is critical at this time for all growers to remember that they have a duty of care to their workers, who are integral to the ongoing ability for our industry to keep supplying produce to consumers. The Fair Work Ombudsman has some important information that all employers should be across to ensure that they are meeting their obligatory requirements to their workers.
It is important to remember that everyone is a little confused and wary around what the future may hold, so I urge you all to look after your workers’ physical and mental health and well-being – they are our greatest asset and we cannot lose sight of this.
The Australian Government has announced a range of economic responses to assist individuals/households, workers, businesses and the wider community. For more information on these assistance packages please visit the Treasury website here.
AUSVEG State Member Growcom has prepared a detailed guide for employers and employees regarding COVID-19 – please click here to view the document (please note that given the evolving situation with COVID-19, Growcom makes no claims or guarantees about the completeness, accuracy or currency of this information).
Information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace for employers can be found via https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-employers.
The World Health Organization has developed a factsheet on ‘Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19’, which details how you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.
Coronavirus information and support for businesses, including information on employers’ obligations and information on government assistance, can be found via https://business.gov.au/risk-management/emergency-management/coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business.
Information from the Department of Home Affairs on international travellers, including travel restrictions, international travellers and information for visas, can be found at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/news-media/current-alerts/novel-coronavirus.
Information and resources on the vegetable industry’s crisis preparedness and what to do in a crisis can be found on the AUSVEG website here.
Hort Connections 2020
After careful consideration, AUSVEG and the Produce Marketing Association of Australia – New Zealand (PMA-ANZ) have reluctantly decided to postpone Hort Connections 2020 until 7-9 June 2021 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Our industry’s top priority is the health and safety of our community; this includes consumers, growers and other industry partners. As such, the decision to postpone Hort Connections 2020 is, at this stage, the most responsible course of action we can take to maintain our community’s health and safety.
More information on this decision can be found on the Hort Connections website.
It is critical that everyone look after their own health and that of their families, workers and their communities. If anyone wants more information on COVID-19, including the symptoms and what to do if you suspect you might be at risk of infection, please visit https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert or call the National Incident Response Centre on 1800 020 080.
Guidelines on isolation can be found here.
Up-to-date resources on COVID-19 can be found on the Department of Health website here.
It is important to note that it is unlikely that COVID-19 will be passed on through fresh produce. More information around the COVID-19 and fresh produce can be found at an updated article from the Australian Research Centre for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Industry website by Dr Hayriye Bozkurt.
Information is also available from:
- The NSW Government Food Authority Food Businesses and COVID-19 webpage.
- The Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University in the US around Frequently Asked Questions for the food industry in relation to COVID-19.
I urge everyone to heed the advice of medical authorities to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of their families, loved ones, workers and communities. And please keep talking to your workers, your colleagues and your peers to check in.
If you require any further information, please contact AUSVEG on 03 9882 0277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.