Grape help for hospitality workers

Fruit-picking is hard manual labour but Harcourt Valley Vineyard has seen a sudden influx of offers and is returning a favour with this year’s harvest.
The team has offered this season’s remaining work to local hospitality staff facing an employment slump in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vineyard owner Kye Livingstone said hospitality was among the first industries impacted in the government’s necessary clamp-down on social gatherings and trade restrictions to reduce health risks.
He said the vineyard’s offer was a small gesture but one way the team could show its appreciation to the sector that had supported it for so long.
“We know it’s not much but it’s something,” Mr Livingstone said.
“Like the majority of other farms in the area, we use contract workers who fly in from overseas purely to work on farms and meet the shortage of workers.
“Since hospitality staff are vital to our industry we thought we could at least offer them this work to help them in these tough times.”
More than 40 people responded to the callout on social media and, while the vineyard couldn’t accept them all, 17 workers were given the opportunity.
Harcourt marriage celebrate Vicki Polglase lost four months of bookings as a result of the pandemic and was among those to sign up.
“I just want to express how thankful I am and how very impressed I am with their genuine concern for others within our community and their actions to support us,” she said.
Losing work, with a mortgage and construction mortgage on the line, Castlemaine’s Ashley McKinnon was also happy to take up the offer.
She said the intent to help local residents during a difficult and uncertain time had earned her “high respect and gratitude”.
“I hope once things start to go back to ‘normal’ we can give back, get around and support those who supported us in these hard times,” she said.
Mr Livingstone said further opportunities for work may open as the vineyard gears up for orders and delivery throughout the region and Melbourne.
“We are only a small business ourselves but we are going to keep doing what we can to help local people and other businesses,” he said.
Government help is available to those who have lost employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For details, visit: servicesaustralia.gov.au

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