BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO
PACIFIC nations have called on Australia and New Zealand to increase the number of people they employ in their regional seasonal workers schemes.
The call is the end result of the second Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting which wrapped up in Honiara last week.
The outcome statement from PLMAM, which was released on Friday, looked at how seasonal worker programmes could be improved.
“Pacific Island countries called on Australia and New Zealand to continue give preference to workers from the Pacific,” the PLMAM document said.
They also welcome the increase in the number of Pacific workers in the employment programmes as a “win-win solution for workers and employers”.
Trade Commissioner Joseph Ma’ahanua told the Island Sun that the meeting had been successful.
“The outcome statement is centered around issues on improving access in areas of visa, areas relating to how superannuation could be fitted into in the schemes, areas relating to information sharing and so forth,” he said.
Pacific nations also agreed that superannuation, which is Australia’s retirement savings scheme, needs to be discussed further to deal with the challenges faced by regional workers in getting their superannuation back.
The meeting also agreed to tackle the issue of remittances, or money transfers, as a matter of priority.
Australian High Commissioner Roderick Brazier said the Australian government will continue to help the Solomon Islands increase the number of workers in its employment programmes.
“We want to help Solomon Islands in reaching this needed target and also we think that Solomon Islands has a large, young, willing, diligent work force that can participate in the Australian economy as well.
“We love to see Solomon Islands reach those numbers, 5000, 6000, 7000 going to Australia helping to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” Brazier said.
He said while the number of Solomon Islanders going to Australia had increased to 176 in 2017-18, the numbers of workers was low compared to Tonga and Vanuatu.
The meeting was attended by Pacific nations, Australia and New Zealand, employers, seasonal workers and academics.
The statement also recognised the importance of PLMAM as a key regional forum
The meeting also considered the setting up of a regional body for labour mobility with clear mandates and responsibilities.
Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu have all offered to host the proposed regional labour mobility secretariat