Locals lose in job market

By MARY MANN

BYRON Shire mayor Jan Barham says backpackers are taking jobs from locals.

Cr Barham says seasonal employment opportunities for North Coast job seekers are being filled by travellers and that Byron Bay should be removed from the Federal Government's harvest trail, which gives information about seasonal work throughout Australia.

"There is a regional harvest trail, which is trying to get employment out into those western regions where they're having a bit of trouble getting their crops harvested," she said.

"But concerns were raised with me that it's impacting on our area because we're listed in the harvest trail. Casual seasonal employment positions that might have been there for local people are being taken up by travellers."

She said many travellers will work for accommodation in lieu of pay, making them attractive to employers.

Cr Barham's comments come after what she described as 'very negative comments' from the Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey.

"Mr Hockey was talking about the high unemployment rate of coastal towns, saying people here just didn't want to work," Cr Barham said.

"But when assessments of local employment are made, the impact of travelling workers is often ignored."

Cr Barham said she wanted the issue 'seriously looked at in a constructive way'.

Ballina MP Don Page said the Department of Industrial Relations needed to police employment conditions of all positions in the tourism industry, to make sure locals and travellers are on a level playing field.



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