HUNDREDS of strawberry pickers and packers are outraged they have been dumped in favour of cheaper workers sourced from overseas.
Gowinta Farms, which describes itself as one of the Sunshine Coast's premier farming enterprises, has been employing locals for the May to October season for more than half a century.
This week, regulars ù many of them semi-retired people who rely on the seasonal income to pay their bills ù have been told they will no longer be required, reports The Courier Mail.
In a letter to staff, Gowinta's managing director Leonard Smith said: "I write with a heavy heart to inform you that after evaluating, discussing and dissecting the business, we have decided to pick all of our strawberry crop for the 2012 season by way of contractors." Mr Smith said there had been a downturn in business and the changes would bring a reduced administration workload.
Snubbed local staff told The Courier Mail the contractor engaged employed mainly workers sourced from Asia, in particular South Korea.
They said their replacements had been seen undergoing training in recent days.
It is believed they will be housed in a caravan park on the Beerwah farm and toil for much less than the $18.50-$25 an hour their predecessors earned.
Under Working Holiday Visa regulations, visitors aged 18-30 from certain countries can qualify for a second-year extension if they complete 88 days in regional agriculture, forestry, horticulture, mining, construction or fishing.