Banaban Voice

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February 15, 2009

FIFTY Tongans are due to fly into Australia tomorrow to pick fruit in NSW areas where farmers are unable to get enough workers.

The men will be in the Riverina and Robinvale regions for seven months under a trial Federal Government seasonal workers' scheme.

More men will come from Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea when approved labour hire companies have completed all requirements, which include growers taking steps to first recruit Australians for the jobs.

After the trial, 2400 seasonal work visas will be available from July.

Farmers will pay half the air fares and workers will get award wages.

Tonga's Deputy Secretary (labour division), Sitiveni Finau, said the scheme was a good opportunity.

"The first group will fly to Sydney [tomorrow] and they will help with the harvest of almonds at Robinvale. We will have more workers coming later."

Anna Berry, of Summit Personnel in Griffith, said the agency had Government approval to act for similar pilot schemes in Griffith and Swan Hill.

"We hoped to have the workers here by the end of January but we were delayed because of the logistics involved," she said.

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