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The fruitpickers lament

March 31st, 2011

Way back in the 1970s, I spent a couple of short spells as an unemployed layabout, one of which was ended when I took a job as a fruitpicker, making (IIRC) $2 a day, which even then wasn’t food money (I wasn’t very good at it). Fortunately, the job included some basic accommodation and all the blackberries you could eat. And, even then the whinging from employers who claimed to be unable to get enough pickers was an old story.

Now, I see Tony Abbott is pushing the same line, wanting to stop dole payments in any district where there are (claimed to be) vacant fruitpicking jobs. After four decades of this stuff, we ought by now to have some actual evidence. So, I have a few questions

First, has there ever been occasion when significant volumes of fruit have gone unpicked because of a shortage of pickers? [1]

Second, has there been any occasion on which demand for fruitpickers has been enough that a person with no prior experience could make substantially more than the minimum wage (currently about $15/hour). ? [2]

And if, as I strongly suspect, the answer to both questions is No, what does that tell us about the expectations of the whinging employers. (I suggest, a ready supply of below-minimum wage workers, available on demand when needed, and ready to be sacked the moment they are not)

fn1 Not a strike, or some particular farmer so objectionable that all ir workers quit

fn2 I know that experienced pickers can do a bit better than this, but that’s not the relevant issue here.

  1. Freelander
    April 6th, 2011 at 20:36 | #1

    @Steve at the Pub

    Extreme poverty makes people easily exploitable. Not only do 416 visas allow us to bring them over here to exploit locally, their importation provides vigorous competition adding to wage flexibility and putting pressure on our overly pampered local workforce, ‘incentivizing’ them to become truly flexible.

    Is 416 great! For former South Africans who emigrated here after that country went bung, must be like the good old days when the flexible labour used to be allowed to come in to work, from the ‘homelands’. Maybe we could even build little townships to house them?

  2. paul walter
    April 6th, 2011 at 20:51 | #2

    Paul 2′s comment pulled me up. Out of tens perhaps hundreds of billions of brain cells, a handful are misaligned and someone is put through what his lad has to go through.
    SATP, its not just whities either. Remember the story of the Afro English Academic I mentioned?
    Living in Ethiopia with tribespeople there, his twenty stone plus frame was reduced to a shivering hulk within a month, while the people living there who ate of the same meagre diet; less than him, I actually remember, since he was a guest, some how were able to get out and “do it all again” the following day, not a drop of sweat, while our hero sat stunned, apathetic and exhausted, after an hour or less of work.

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