Retirees step in to pick apples as some job seekers fail to turn up for work

Retirees step in to pick apples as some job seekers fail to turn up for work

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Former motor mechanic Malcolm Hodgetts, who turns 73 this month, had never picked an apple or carried out any farm work before the current harvest.

The retiree, who also worked in the mining industry, decided to come out of retirement to help pick the apple crop at an orchard in the Tamar Valley, in northern Tasmania, that was desperate for workers.

The veteran is stepping up to the apple ladder at the same time as some potential workers, decades younger and on JobSeeker, fail to turn up after applying for picking jobs.

Others only show for one or two days and then give it away.

Picking apples in an orchard in Tasmania’s Huon Valley.(Supplied : John Evans)

“I start at 7:00am each day and work through until 3:00pm and I’m picking two bins a day but I’m looking to pick a third bin,” Mr Hodgetts said.

“My first day on the job was all right, but the second day I was stiff and sore all over, but now the soreness is gone and it’s a lot better. I’ve just got to stay on that ladder”.

Orchard manager Brendan Bell said Mr Hogdetts and a second retiree, Phil Picklill, were a fantastic addition to the picking team and described them as great personalities who were no trouble.

Fully laden boxes of apples inside a packing shed in Tasmania
Boxes of Tasmanian apples at a Huon Valley orchard.(

ABC Rural : Tony Briscoe


“I think it’s great if they want to come out and pick the fruit and we’ll try to help them as much as possible to pick their two or three bins a day,” Mr Bell said.

“It’s been a very challenging year as far as getting workers is concerned and we currently have around 35 pickers, but in reality we need 50 workers each day.”

Kim Layton runs an apple orchard in Tasmania’s north with her partner, Troy, but also saw the other side of the employment sector running Linx Employment, which finds workers for farms across the state.

“Never would I have thought it was going to be as difficult as it was this year,” Ms Layton said.

“As for every local worker we have on farms across the state, we have had to contact 20 to 30 people to get that one worker.”

Organic apples on trees at a Huon Valley orchard in Tasmania
Organic apples waiting to be picked at Geeveston.(

ABC Rural : Tony Briscoe


Ms Layton said some people accepted the job but failed to turn up “every day of the week”.

“I think there has to be some repercussions out there for people who can work and have decided not to work,” she said.

“The only reason they were applying for positions in the first place was because Centrelink was asking them to apply for the positions as part of their JobSeeker allowance.

“I don’t want to knock locals because we’ve got some fantastic locals who’ve stepped up and without them we wouldn’t be hanging on by our fingernails.”

But according to Linx Employment, no government department had come back to them or the farms where they supplied labour to get feedback or name people who should have turned up for work but did not.

A man busy picking apples in a Tasmanian orchard in the Huon Valley.
A worker picking apples in a Tasmanian orchard.(

Supplied : John Evans


Ms Layton’s partner, Troy, agreed there should be some repercussions for able people who simply refused to work after applying for the positions, being offered the jobs, and then failing to show after one or two days’ work.

“They don’t give themselves the opportunity to earn good money as they are too focused on the first day and second day and not realising there is some pretty good money to be made,” Mr Layton said.

“My 15-year-old son recently worked his first day picking apples and earned around $180 for the day, so if he can do that so can other young fit people aged in their 20s.

“I need 40 to 50 workers to turn up each day and one day this week 10 out of 30 new workers turned up, and today only four out of nine new workers showed up at the farm.”

a man stands between a bin full of apples and a large ladder in front of a row of apples
Former security guard Phil Picklill has enjoyed his time in the orchard picking fruit.(

ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith


The final word goes to retiree Phil Picklill who only retired in December after a career as a security guard, but decided to help out after hearing apple growers needed the workers.

“It’s good work and very physical and you are sore at the end of the day, but you get over it … if you are fit and healthy enough come and do it, as it’s a great day out and the people you meet are fantastic.”


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