Parliamentary report whitewashes farm labour exploitation – Unions NSW

Unions NSW

Parliamentary report whitewashes farm labour exploitation

Today’s release of a parliamentary report into the Working Holiday Maker visa is a whitewash of a failed program, and paves the way for continued coercive labour practices and exploitation in agriculture, Unions NSW said.

Workers and their unions have repeatedly blown the whistle on the deep problems with the scheme, which funnels tens of thousands of backpackers into farm work in return for an extension of their visa. There have been widespread reports of abuse, sexual harassment and exploitation under the scheme, with workers reporting being paid as little a $2.50 per hour.

“The joint committee on migration has missed an opportunity to stamp out exploitation with the release of such a weak report,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.

“The key problem at the heart of this program is that all power rests with the employer to sign off on whether the backpacker has performed the necessary hours to have their visa extended. This creates an utterly lopsided arrangement, leaving backpackers ripe for exploitation.

“This committee report has done nothing more than tinker at the edges. The truth is that this visa should be abolished. If the agriculture sector can’t afford to pay Australian wages it needs to completely rethink the economics of the sector. No industry has the right to subsidise itself through cheap, exploited labour.

“It is unconscionable to erect and maintain a secondary labour market, where the origin of your passport determines whether you can enforce your labour rights.

“Both the Government and industry know what the problems are. Another round of navel gazing through inquiries and sub committees won’t resolve the problem. This is the same Government that failed to provide any meaningful support for temporary migrants by excluding them from JobKeeper or JobSeeker during the worst economic crisis in a generation.”

Mark Morey

/Public Release.