Aussies too picky for farm work

A SUNSHINE Coast strawberry farmer has told how he has to employ foreigners as too many Australians living on the dole were unreliable and "just don't want to work".

The farmer, who asked to remain anonymous, said he relies on "backpackers and Asians" with a working visa, which allows them to work in the fruit-picking industry after his continued frustrated attempts to employ Aussies.

"Without that (visa) I would have been dead in the water," he said.

"I could write a book on my experience."

Two years ago the farmer approached recruitment agency Cadet with a request for "20 workers in two weeks".

"They said 'no worries'," he said.

He was sent a list with names and arranged a bus to pick the workers up and take them to the farm.

"Only six fronted."

And then, within minutes of arriving at the farm, two more "disappeared".

One was "sitting with his feet on the dash of the bus having coffee"; the other was hiding in the toilet.

The farmer said he "lost a $100,000 because he didn't have reliable workers" to pick his crop.

"Another time I had 40 workers on the Friday, by Monday there were 10 left. I decided to use the 471 visa or go broke."

The work involved picking or planting strawberries and paid around $21 an hour, more than the award wage.

He said he could "tell me a thousand stories of the guys on the dole".

"They are unemployable some of them. Out of 40 or 50 you might get five that are reasonable."

He said "all of the strawberry industry is heading away from them".

He said at the peak of the season he employed about 100 people, Sunshine Coast jobs that were being given to foreigners.

"In a couple of weeks I'll be looking for another 30 to 50," he said.

He was also struggling to fill a permanent position.

"I will employ anyone if they are prepared to work."

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