Seasonal workers face bed shortage

A SHORTAGE of budget accommodation in Orange has left at least 60 cherry pickers with no where to live.

The general manager of labour contractor Pasifika Resources David O’Brien said he supplies around 350 pickers to properties all over the state however he’s unable to find suitable accommodation for cherry pickers working in and around Orange.

“Cudal’s not too bad, Mudgee is quite difficult and Orange is very difficult,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We’re not after five star accommodation, just something that’s around $120 a week.”

Mr O’Brien said even local pubs have priced themselves out of the market with most asking between $200 to $250 a week.

“That’s just way too much,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said the majority of workers he was looking to accommodate were backpackers although he also tries to use local workers when he can which helps avoid the accommodation issues he’s currently facing.

Mr O’Brien said the workers he hired went through a “strict vetting process”.

“It’s in our interest to get good responsible workers,” he said.

“We often do group (accommodation) bookings and we can assure people that these people are not just off the street and any problems that happen we can sort out straight away.”

Mr O’Brien said while camping sites did have some availability that’s not always the best type of accommodation for pickers.

“They work hard all day and it’s hard for them to try and get some rest in a tent,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said this lack of suitable accommodation means he’s been unable to access staff via the government authorised Pacific Seasonal Workers’ Program that allows seasonal workers from the pacific region to work in Australia via short term work visas.

“Normally they’re the backbone of the labour force but I can’t get suitable accommodation (for the visas) to be approved,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said sourcing workers via the program guarantees local producers access to a “willing, skilled, returnable workforce” rather than replying on backpackers who can simply be “here for a short time, and a good time.”

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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