Job losses: agriculture coping 'well', says union

Job losses: agriculture coping 'well', says union

Coronavirus
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Unions say agriculture is faring well compared to other regional industries.

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JOBS: The AWU says backpackers and seasonal workers have left their jobs amid COVID-19 concerns.

JOBS: The AWU says backpackers and seasonal workers have left their jobs amid COVID-19 concerns.

Unionists say Victoria's agriculture sector is yet to feel the full effect of the coronavirus, as limited workers have lost their jobs so far during the pandemic.

As hospitality and retail experience unprecedented job losses, Victoria's agriculture sector is dealing with the virus better than other industries, the Australian Workers' Union says.

"As employers, they're holding up reasonably well at this stage," AWU state secretary Ben Davis said.

"The industry has lost a number of seasonal employees, backpackers and the like, who have opted to fly home at short notice given the restrictions placed around the on world travel.

"However, we're concerned if there starts to be coronavirus cases in those communities and on those properties then that will be a game changer but at this stage they're doing okay."

Unemployment rate to rise

Victoria has the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the country at 5.4 per cent, behind ACT (3 per cent), NSW (4.5) and the Northern Territory (5.3).

Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals in 2017-18, Victoria produced 25 per cent or $15 billion of Australia's total gross value of agricultural production worth an estimated $59b.

However, the AWU fears further restrictions or potential lock-down laws could have dire consequences for the industry.

"Obviously a lot of places that use a lot of foods like cafes and restaurants have suffered a huge hit but people who grow and process our food have been largely unaffected," Mr David said.

"If the restrictions on movement at work continue to escalate, which we assume will be the case, it's critical that agriculture and other associated industries are considered essential because they are because they feed the country.

"That will ultimately come down to the state government and National Cabinet but our view is anyone who is producing food is an essential industry."

Regional jobs hit hard union says

Victoria's retail and hospitality sectors are among the hardest hit industries as the state comes to terms with COVID-19.

"The tourism industry if obviously going through all sorts of diabolical times as are our local shops and our rural newspapers," Mr Davis said on Tuesday.

"Wineries are also doing it really tough because people are being urged not to travel unless they have to, they're being urged to stay home and not take holidays and that's going to continue for months."

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