A first group of 160 workers have left Solomon Islands Thursday to work in Queensland, Australia under the Seasonal Work Programme (SWP) and the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MFAET) Labour Mobility Unit said they have been working very hard to ensure Solomon Islanders participate in the labour mobility programme,to earn an income, gain some skills and be able to support themselves financially, during this very difficult time.
“This is evident during the recent months where locals have travelled every month to Australia as part of the labour mobility program.
“They will be quarantined at their pre-arranged quarantine sites for 14 days before going to their respective farms where they will be working for the next 2 to 3 years,” the statement said.
It says the team has a mix of returning workers who have been part of the schemes previously and some first timers to the programs which was selected as part of February 2021 applicants. This consist of 110 male workers and 50 females selected from all the nine provinces.
“All the workers attended a mandatory two-day Pre-Departure Briefing and training program held on Thursday 02 September and Friday 03 September 21 at the St. Banarbas Cathedral Leaf Haus.”
It says the briefings include key information on worker contract & agreements, country information, health management, ambassadorial responsibilities, COVID 19 regulations and other important issues.
“The pre departure briefing is essential for the workers whom some of them have never travelled overseas before.
“For returning workers the pre departure briefing is an opportunity for them to get more information from officials about what they should do to try and gain more from their work,” the statement said.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & External Trade, Collin Beck, was one of the keynote speakers at the briefing.
Beck whilst congratulating the workers in their selection, also said that the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme is aimed at creating employment opportunities and generating income for unemployed people, building people to people links and opportunities to develop new and innovative business opportunities between the two countries.
He strongly reiterated the Zero Tolerance on alcohol consumption, the consequences of absconding and the importance of Labour Mobility Unit’s here to work values.
“I strongly advise all workers to refrain from consuming alcohol and encourage you all to be good ambassadors of your country.
“Please be reminded that you are there to work whilst at the same time you are also promoting Solomon Islands under the Here to Work brand.
“Make good use of this opportunity to earn and save money and help your families when you return home.”
He also stressed to the workers that they must obey and respect the laws of the host nation while working there.
“You are ambassadors for the country and anything you do will reflect back on the country,” PS Beck said.
Beck also stated that absconding workers will not be tolerated and that there are significant consequences from such actions.
“If you have any intentions of leaving your designated place of work to work in another location then you will be breaching your visa conditions and you will be working illegally in Australia.
“The Ministry through the LMU does not tolerate absconders and those who have absconded or overstayed and are working illegally in Australia will be permanently blacklisted from the labour mobility programmes upon return to Solomon Islands,” Beck said.
The Australian High Commission representative who attended the Pre-departure briefing also re-emphasised the key messages shared by Beck and strongly encouraged workers to use the opportunity wisely to earn money and achieve their goals.
The labour mobility programme has benefited many families over the past years. Both SIG and the Australian government are committed to continuously support this programme in the future.
Solomon Islands labour mobility programme is managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade through the Labour Mobility Unit which is housed under the Department of External Trade.