COVID-19 Update 6 April 2020
Minister Littleproud extends Agriculture Visas
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture announced the extension of visas for critical agricultural workers, in response to calls from industry.
Key details of this announcement are:
- Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme workers can extend their stay for up to 12 months to work for approved employers (ensuring pastoral care and accommodation needs of workers are met to minimise health risks to visa holders and the community).
- Approved employers under the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme will need to continue engaging with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on labour market testing to ensure recruitment of Australians first.
- Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) who work in agriculture or food processing will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer, and eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.
- Conditions will be placed upon visa holders to self-isolate for 14 days before taking up employment in a different region (including termination of visas where there is non-compliance).
- To support implementation of self-isolation arrangements for visa holders and avoid spread of COVID-19, the Government is working with States and Territories on enforcement and sanction mechanisms.
- Employers will need to commit to providing safe accommodation for agricultural workers that complies with social distancing requirements.
- Arrangements will also need to be in place for a declaration between employers and employees that all protocols necessary to ensure human health and accommodation requirements have been met.
We will share more detailed guidance on this announcement as it becomes available.
Key Meetings and Briefings
Australian Grape & Wine has been in regular contact with the Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture and their offices as a number of issues have arisen (and been resolved) including alcohol sales restrictions, cellar door restrictions and visa extensions.
Fair Work Commission Proposal to vary Award
The Fair Work Commission has indicated it proposes to vary most of the Modern Award, including the agricultural awards, to:
1. include a right for employees to take two weeks of “unpaid pandemic leave”; and,
2. allow employer and employee to agree for an employee to take twice their annual leave at half pay.
These variations are intended to allow employees to comply with government directives to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. to self-isolate) particularly where other forms of leave (e.g. personal leave) are not available.
The Australian Government wage subsidy program is designed to help businesses affected by COVID-19 to cover the costs of their employees’ wages, so that more employees can retain their jobs and continue to earn an income.
In summary the JobKeeper Payment is a temporary scheme open to business impacted by the Coronavirus and will provide up to $1,500 per fortnight per employee for up to 6 months.
Eligibility criteria and details are available here
QLD and WA Border Closures
Hard border closures take effect in both QLD and WA this week. Here is a brief reminder of the provisions in place in those states.
· From midnight 3 April 2020, entry into Queensland will be prohibited without a permit. Apply for an entry pass here
· Only ‘exempt’ persons will be allowed to enter Queensland.
· Interstate persons who provide critical services to Queensland, including construction, mining/energy/agribusinesses are ‘exempt’, providing their employer has provided a compliant plan to manage preventing the transmission of COVID-19 among its employees and the community.
· From 4 April 2020, additional restrictions will be in place for interstate FIFO workers specific to the resources sector where only critical resource sector employees will be allowed to enter Queensland from interstate to work.
· Hard border closure to come into effect midnight 5 April 2020 – WA State Border to close.
· Hard border closure for at least a month.
· Exemptions are currently being finalised and will include:
- Healthcare workers
- Emergency services workers
- Transport freight and logistics
- People with specialist skills not available in WA
- National or state security and governance, and
- Courts and judicial services
· Exemptions would also apply for fly-in, fly-out workers and their families, but strict 14-day self-isolation measures would need to be followed when they first entered the state.
· Additional restrictions in place for the Kimberley region as of midnight 3 April 2020. New boundaries in place for four Local Government Areas within the Kimberley. Existing exemptions apply.
Cellar Door Operations
An update on what’s happening re cellar doors is provided below:
New South Wales
· Cellar doors open for takeaway only.
· No limits on purchases.
· Social distancing, operational distancing (1 person per 4m2) and hygiene standards required.
· Expecting a new directive this afternoon (we’ll forward this through when it arrives).
· At this point, cellar doors can open, but no tastings.
· Cellar doors closed – online and telephone sales and wholesale sales only for food and beverage.
· No collection from cellar doors, deliveries offsite only.
· Cellar doors can remain open for takeaway sales (wine, food, coffee).
· No limit on volumes.
· Social distancing, hygiene requirements in place.
· Not many people are actually opening cellar doors though, and many have chosen to shut. Wine Tasmania is keeping a list updated here.
· Cellar doors open for takeaway only.
· No limits on purchases.
· Social distancing, operational distancing (1 person per 4m2 and hygiene standards required).
· Open for take-away sales with a limit of 1 carton (9 litre equivalent) per customer per week.
· No tastings.
· Appropriate physical distancing protocol, sanitisation and employee health and risk management in place.
Austrade has advised that it is still very much open for business and is available to help exporters as much as possible.
To help, they’ve developed a COVID-19 information and insights page which will be updated daily. The page covers government support for businesses impacted by COVID-19. Latest Insights, webinars. State and Territory support and other useful links.
Information about the recently announced International Air Freight Mechanism and extra funding for EMDG can be found here.
Australian Grape & Wine COVID-19 Workplace Guides
· Updates on Wine Australia activities and services. Links to government support, health and travel advice.