FGT Industry Update - COVID-19
Fruit Growers Tasmania | Monday, 30 March 2020, 2.00pm
FGT has been contacted by some growers with queries about managing the ongoing coronavirus situation. Below are a list of key points based on available information at this time, and we will keep you informed if circumstances change.
Up to date Tasmanian information re: COVID-19
The Tasmanian Government has established a single website where businesses can find the latest information, updates and regulations changes. This website can be found at www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au.
Information for growers and other business owners can be found at https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/business-and-employees
Horticulture an “Essential Service”
The Commonwealth has declared all forms of agriculture to be essential service, including horticulture. This classification is expected to last for the duration of the current Coronavirus situation. This means:
- access to workers, agricultural supply lines, transportation and logistics will not be affected by many of the measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread
- state-imposed border shutdowns will not affect agricultural supply chains
- the trucks carrying food and produce will get through to the shops
- feed, hay, fertilizer and other agriculture products will continue being delivered to farms
A copy of the announcement can be accessed at https://minister.awe.gov.au/littleproud/media-releases/agriculture-jobs-essential.
Backpacker workers not required to leave Tasmania
Premier Peter Gutwein announced on Wednesday that non-essential holiday makers and other non-residents would be asked to leave Tasmania by 1 April 2020 (originally 29 March 2020). We have heard from growers that remaining seasonal workers doing fruit picking work are unsure whether this means they are now required to leave Tasmania by this date.
Growers are encouraged to pass on to concerned employees the following information:
- Backpackers working in agricultural sector are classified “essential workers” by both the State and Commonwealth governments.
- Backpackers working in the agricultural sector who are already in Tasmania are under no obligation to leave the state, and can continue working within the Tasmanian agriculture sector industry.
- Agricultural workers are permitted to cross state boundaries as part of moving to another agricultural position. However, workers may be denied movement across state boundaries if they cannot demonstrate that they are going to a new place of employment.
Freight will continue to come into and out of our state. We will continue to respond to any identified disruptions.
Worker safety information and COVID-19
The Tasmanian Government have compiled a list of information which employers should provide to all employees and contract staff. Key information to share includes:
- how to stay informed and the best sources of information (Australian Government and Tasmanian Government Department of Health websites)
- how to protect yourself and others
- what to do if they have travelled interstate and overseas in the previous 14 days
- the employer’s expectations that staff will follow instructions provided by Public Health Services
- non-essential meetings or conferences of critical workforces such as healthcare professionals and emergency services should be limited
- non-essential overseas travel should be reconsidered
- social distancing measures must be adhered to.
Workers compensation and COVID-19
The Tasmanian Government has issued advice to employers regarding COVID-19 and workers compensation. Businesses have been advised that employers may be liable for costs if it can be shown that an employee’s job substantially contributed to the cause of them contracting the disease. FGT continues to lobby the Tasmanian Government for a more considered response on this issue.
Growers are asked to do everything they can think of to inform staff of the risks and manage staff exposure risks, including:
- provide on-site accommodation for seasonal staff where feasible
- provide hand sanitiser and other hygiene products
- managing staff in small teams
- keep work teams and their equipment isolated from each other
- ensure all staff members can carry out their tasks without sharing tools
- putting whole work teams into self-isolation if a team-member shows symptoms which may be COVID-19.
Growers are being encouraged to document all practices to show compliance. Such documentation will assist growers if employees submit a claim for workers compensation.