Meeting worker challenges

28 June 2023

In today's editorial, we are pleased to feature an insightful article written by Belle Binde trusted partner and specialist in Human Resources. As the Managing Director of Left Field Group Pty Ltd, Belle brings a wealth of expertise and experience in managing HR challenges and providing valuable insights into the industry.

"Farm labourers play a vital role in agriculture and are responsible for ongoing food production for millions of people globally. However, the current post-pandemic worker landscape continues to undergo significant changes which affect both farm culture and turnover.

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"The post-pandemic landscape presents a set of challenges that confront the agricultural industry, each with its unique implications. These challenges revolve around the scarcity of local workers, an emerging sense of entitlement among both local and foreign workers, and a rise in transient backpackers who contribute to a breakdown in trust and cohesion among workers and farmers.

"Firstly, the persistent absence of local workers has become a pressing concern. Despite the existing demand, many individuals have yet to return to their previous positions. Moreover, even new local workers exhibit little interest in entering the industry. Consequently, this shortage necessitates a greater reliance on backpackers and foreign workers.

"Secondly, there is a growing sense of entitlement among workers, including backpackers. Both local and foreign workers now expect high wages and benefits even for seasonal or temporary work. Furthermore, they are increasingly reluctant to work longer hours under harsh conditions. This trend results in high turnover rates and a lack of stability within the workforce.

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"Lastly, the industry has witnessed an increase in transient backpackers. Although they play a vital role in providing labour, their lack of experience and training often leads to a breakdown in trust and cohesion among workers and farmers.

"Backpackers display lower commitment levels, frequently abandoning their positions abruptly or failing to show up altogether. Such actions contribute to the high turnover and instability of the workforce.

"These three main post-pandemic challenges require careful consideration and strategic approaches to ensure the sustainability and productivity of the agricultural sector. Addressing the shortage of local workers, managing worker entitlement, and fostering trust and reliability among backpackers are crucial steps towards overcoming these obstacles."

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