By Sharlyne Eri – EMTV News, Port Moresby
The PNG Seasonal Workers Association is calling on the Labor Department to appoint an agent to deal with queries of seasonal workers.
Association President Lucy Sengi says, attempts to get work permits and employment visas from the Labor Department have been unsuccessful, as the Department said it does not issue such documents.
Sengi said as an agent, PNG Seasonal Workers Association would assist seasonal workers as a correspondent between them and the Australian Government.
In 2010, the Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato signed and MOU with former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop for PNG seasonal workers to work as fruit pickers in Australia.
Since then, the Labor Department has sent less than 200 seasonal workers to Australia annually due to the requirements set by the Australian Government – a figure much lower compared to other Pacific Island countries.
The PNG Seasonal Workers Association Inc. is an avenue where seasonal workers can go through to get some assistance.
However, according to Association President Lucy Sengi, members under the Association are not getting the help they seek.
On August 30th this year, Prime Minister Peter O’Neil had made a similar call to Ministers concerned to look into the seasonal workers’ issue.
He said seasonal workers in the country were facing visa issues with the Australian Government, resulting in fewer workers engaged in the fruit picking jobs.
A member of the Association, Alphonsa Morris, said sending seasonal workers to Australia would not only be an individual achievement but would also address the high unemployment rate in PNG.
Association President Lucy Sengi said she has established networks on the ground in Australia for seasonal workers, however, the only delay is the issue of visas.
Currently, PNG Seasonal Workers Association has 700 members.