National Farmers' Federation

Fresh food industry unites on workforce sustainability

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and the Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) have today jointly hosted an industry forum to discuss the importance of overseas workers to Australian agriculture.
The forum was held in Canberra and attended by key stakeholders across the fresh food supply chain, including farmer representative groups, retailers, unions, overseas workers, academics, recruitment services providers, social welfare organisations, government and political representatives.
NFF General Manager of Workplace Relations and Legal Affairs Sarah McKinnon said the forum represented the beginning of a national conversation on workforce sustainability in the fresh food industry.
“For some time now, we have been working toward a best practice scheme for agricultural employment and labour contracting, to drive the social license of Australian farmers and encourage more people into agricultural employment,” Ms McKinnon said.
“Today a diverse range of stakeholders and industry leaders came together to listen to each other and engage in a free exchange of ideas.
“The strong level of participation reflects the level of interest, both among industry and the wider community. We now have an opportunity to develop greater consistency of approach to employment and contractor engagement across the supply chain.”
Ms McKinnon said a consistent and coordinated approach to workforce engagement also offers the potential to lift productivity and increase farm gate returns.
“Today reinforced the need to deliver meaningful measures to better protect overseas workers, while ensuring agriculture has a sustainable workforce for the future.
“We can always do more to tell the great stories of Australian agriculture, and to adopt strategies to help insulate us from the damage caused when rogue contractors hit the spotlight.
“Today there was an enormous level of goodwill in the room. We are grateful to all of those who came to the forum and shared their views, and we look forward to an ongoing conversation in the long term interests of Australian agriculture,” Ms McKinnon said.

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