Cherry Growers Australia federal president, Tom Eastlake, states with conviction, the cherry industry has a valuable reputation when it comes to workers. "We don't want it or have it because we haven't tolerated mistreatment," he said of agricultural industry mistreatment of seasonal workers.
Mr Eastlake, who operates the Fairfields orchard near Wombat, said cherry growers were not fly-by-nighters. "We are a perennial crop and have the trees established, so we have to treat our staff well because we expect them to come back each year," he said.
Cherry growers in the Hilltops (Young) and Orange regions are experiencing excellent picking crews this year. "We have a strong core of annual pickers this year. "It is a different mix than other years where normally we have 60 per cent foreign workers (mainly backpackers) and 40pc Australians. However, tis year the numbers have flipped and we have 25 to 30pc foreign workers and the remainder Aussies."
Mr Eastlake said the core pickers were the best he has had in possibly 10 years. "But we are a little understaffed in permanent jobs like tractor drivers, mowers and shed packers, and finding them hard to fill."
While other industries are complaining cherry season steals their workers, Mr Eastlake said his was an industry workers want to work in. "As far as cherries go, we are an industry of first choice for workers," he said. "People keep coming back each season, and while we had an over abundance of work applications early in the season, the way yields are going we can use extra pickers right away. What's good is packers are making real good money and phoning their friends to get onboard."
Source: Western Magazine