COVID-19 updates

Update re: Accommodation for Fruit Industry Workers

Fruit Growers Tasmania | Wednesday, 1 April 2020, 4.15pm

With the agriculture and related services sectors deemed essential services, the Tasmanian Government through the Department of Communities Tasmania has reached out to Fruit Growers Tasmania to ensure there are no accommodation issues for fruit industry workers in Tasmania.

In short, Communities Tasmania recognises the importance of fruit industry workers to the state, whether they be local or not, and want to ensure these workers stay here to participate in the harvest. 

Should any growers have workers who are experiencing difficulties in securing accommodation, please let us know, and we will work with Communities Tasmania to address any difficulties.

It is also understood that workers may need to move to another area of the state for work purposes during this period, as harvest requirements change, and hence may need to change accommodation.  This is also currently quite acceptable, and again, should workers experience difficulties with this relocation or securing accommodation, they should also contact Fruit Growers Tasmania.

Offsite accommodation for seasonal workers

The Tasmanian government has issued restrictions on access to temporary accommodation, including hotels, motels, hostels, boarding houses, caravan parks, campsites, camping areas, bed and breakfasts, airbnbs and holiday home rentals. These restrictions currently limit the types of persons who can secure lodging or reside in temporary accommodation. This information can be found at https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/travellers-and-visitors/accommodation.

As “essential workers”, horticultural seasonal workers are permitted to book temporary accommodation if this is for employment reasons. This means that seasonal workers can continue to use existing temporary accommodation lodgings, or move to new lodgings if they are moving between employment locations if they have no other accommodation options.

Transport between accommodation and workplace

A number of growers have requested advice on the maximum number of offsite employees sharing vehicles when travelling between the workplace and place(s) of residence. At this stage, guidance from the Tasmanian government is:

“For workers sharing transport, travelling to a place of work, there is not a restriction on the number of people per vehicle, other than what the passenger limit specific to that vehicle.”

Nonetheless wherever practicable, consideration could be given to applying the guidelines of no more than two people congregating together, and apply similar practices to the taxi and ride share industries of passengers sitting in the back.

Onsite accommodation for seasonal workers

A number of growers are asking seasonal workers to make use of onsite accommodation options to reduce workers moving between work and accommodation, and mitigate some risks of exposure and introduction into the work environment.

If onsite accommodation is being provided to seasonal workers, it has been suggested that employers co-locate employees from the same work teams and limit physical interactions between work teams where feasible. Safe Work Australia also encourage staggering meal breaks and start times to reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at any given time.

More information on this can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/preparing-workplaces-covid-19/agriculture-minimising-risk-covid-19

New temporary onsite accommodation options for seasonal workers:

FGT has been contacted by THL, who are the world’s largest motorhome rental business. THL currently has around 140 self contained motorhomes in Tasmania, and are offering to make these vehicles available to support growers with access to temporary / mobile accommodation in response to the threats associated with COVID 19.

THL are providing large numbers of motorhome vehicles for NZ fruit growers because traditional dorm type facility presents a considerable risk if an individual was to contract the virus. NZ growers are using motorhomes to provide a flexible option self contained / self isolated workforce accommodation. 

THL is able to deliver vehicles to site if required, and information on vehicles is attached.  The vehicles are all self contained and fully equipped with linen, crockery, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, etc.  They require access to 240v power supply and grey waste water can be spilled into normal drains whilst black water can be disposed of via a normal flushing toilet or a sewage system.

Businesses interested in exploring this option can contact Dave Simmons, Regional Response Lead for this initiative (dave.simmons@thlonline.com) on +64 21 263 1951. 

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