Locals aren't exactly rushing to pick crops

Hire firm says locals could help Tasmania by picking crops

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WORKERS: Crop picker Joel Hepehi is happy to have secure work, and he and employer Belle Binder are urging others to 'give it a go'. Picture: Phillip Biggs

WORKERS: Crop picker Joel Hepehi is happy to have secure work, and he and employer Belle Binder are urging others to 'give it a go'. Picture: Phillip Biggs

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'An opportunity to help each other' as growers 'scream out' for workers.

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A TASMANIAN farm labour hire firm has found between half and three-quarters of the people they called about seasonal crop picking didn't answer the phone.

Belle Binder of Devonport's Left Field Group said she has been trying to build up a pool of workers to meet the surge in demand for crop pickers later this year.

"They (locals) are applying for a job and don't answer the phone," Ms Binder said.

"Or they have the wrong impression. Once we talk to them about the work, they say they don't want to do that and they're not prepared to do the whole job."

However visitors and backpackers were always very keen to work, she said.

"It's a very small percentage of locals who are willing and able to do the job well," she said.

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"But we've got people screaming out for work, and growers screaming out for workers. Our locals need a bit of a sense of community.

"It's going to be devastating if these crops rot in the ground. We've got an opportunity to help each other."

Devonport picker Joel Hepehi said he felt pretty secure in his job.

"People are always going to need food. When everyone in the trades was losing their jobs due to COVID, I was still in work. I got more work because the demand was higher," Mr Hepehi said.

He admitted it took about a week for his body to get used to the job, but after that it was fine. And he reckons others should give it a go, too.

"You might be able to do more than you think. It's not as hard as people make it out to be and the pay is good," he said.

Mrs Binder said the average level two worker was paid $25.08 an hour.

PICK OF THE CROP: Berry pickers will be in big demand later this year and into next year. Picture: File photo

PICK OF THE CROP: Berry pickers will be in big demand later this year and into next year. Picture: File photo

Piece rates had to allow the average worker to earn at least 15 per cent more per hour than the minimum hourly rate.

She said workers could not work more than 304 hours in every eight week period, which meant they could not work constant long days.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she tried fruit picking, thinking that with her background in stock work, she would be fit and strong enough.

But the apple picking job she landed wasn't what she expected.

"It's pretty physical. I thought I would be physically up for it and I realised it was harder than I thought and quite skilled," she said.

"I got my pay check on the first day and thought I would pick up the next day. But it was the same.

"I thought I should look for something with more longevity and consistency."

Services Australia general manager, Hank Jongen, said a single person with no children can get a maximum $1115.70 a fortnight on JobSeeker.

"From September 25, 2020 people can earn $300 a fortnight before their JobSeeker payment is reduced. The current income free amount is $106 per fortnight," he said.

"If a person on JobSeeker earns over a certain amount during the fortnight, their payment will reduce to zero. They can receive a 'nil payment' for 12 weeks before they would need to reapply for JobSeeker."

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