Wine industry workers feel the pain of COVID-19

Vintage may be almost over, but the workers in the region still remain, and are now seeking other employment. Photo by Elements Margaret River.
Vintage may be almost over, but the workers in the region still remain, and are now seeking other employment. Photo by Elements Margaret River.

The Margaret River Wine Association (MRWA) has taken steps to assist the large number of workers currently in the South West feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MRWA said the impact of the pandemic had led to a significant number of people from different sectors seeking employment in the region.

The annual harvest season has all but concluded, further reducing employment opportunities in the South West.

"The 2020 harvest has finished for a number of wineries in the region, with the last expected to be complete by mid-April 2020," a MRWA spokesperson said.

"The Margaret River Wine Association has been in contact with their local labour hire members and have been advised they have the necessary staff to complete the 2020 harvest but will be requiring staff for the winter pruning season which commences at the end of May.

"It is understood that more than 450 people are employed for the pruning season in the Margaret River wine region."

Stormflower Vineyard owner David Martin said their harvest finished a full five weeks earlier than last year.

"The fruit quality is great, the yields were pretty good, and we are looking forward to some really nice wines from the 2020 season," he said.

"For now, everything is being overshadowed by the impact of COVID-19 and... we have decided to close the cellar door for a while.

The MRWA has been in contact with their local labour hire members and have been advised they have the necessary staff to complete the 2020 harvest but will be requiring staff for the pruning season.

"This will obviously have a significant impact on our staff in particular, be we decided that we could not provide the cellar door experience that we all expect of Stormflower, while maintaining a safe and welcoming environment.

"We will monitor the situation and re-open when it is appropriate to do so."

Last week a number of other wineries moved to close their cellar doors, while pushing online orders and in some cases, free delivery services.

Vasse Felix told customers that their tens of thousands of annual visitors meant they would be forced to close the doors until the threat is over.

"We are acutely aware of our responsibility to protect the health of our staff, our visitors, and the broader Margaret River community at a time like this.

"Accordingly, we have been monitoring the situation and public health messages very closely and have already implemented a range of strict hygiene and social distancing practices throughout every part of our business.

"We are also acutely aware that the 2020 vintage - which has the potential to be another spectacular, if low yielding, vintage in Margaret River - is still underway.

"Risking the successful completion of our harvest due to disruptions caused by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic is a serious concern for us.

To register your contact details for employment opportunities from May 2020, contact the local labour hire companies electronically including; AHA Viticulture - ahaviticulture.com.au/employment; Labour Solutions laboursolutions.net; Down to Earth dtearth.com.au and Vinepower at vinepower.com.au