December 18, 2015

Fijian seasonal workers claim mistreatment in Australia

The Australian Government’s seasonal workers programme has come under the spotlight. 

This is after six Fijian workers claimed mistreatment at the hands of a labour- hire company in Queensland. These workers are now in the process of being sent back home to Fiji. 

The six Fijian workers were among a group of farm workers who walked off the job last month claiming underpayment and mistreatment at a Euston farm in southern New South Wales, near Robinvale 

They are Jovesa Maisiri, Losalini Waqa, Eleni Baxter, Fulilagi Malanivosa, Inia Qoli and Marcia Watiri. The 6 claim, the scheme has been exploited by Australian government-approved labour-hire companies that are paying workers as little as $1.20 Australian an hour despite being entitled to AUD $21.61 an hour under the horticulture award. 

This award mandates workers must be paid a minimum hourly rate, regardless of their productivity.Five of the six are reportedly in Melbourne seeking legal advice. They refused to leave Australia out of fear they would face jail if they returned home. 

The workers were at Melbourne Airport when they became aware the “deportation” was being carried out without the knowledge of government departments, despite the -labour-hire company making this claim. 

The Fijians were casual employees of Queensland-based labour-hire company Plant Grow Pick, an approved Department of Employment seasonal worker employer. The alleged mistreatment included being: – Paid as little as $1.20 Australian an hour under a piece rate system. – Denied medical access. – Underfed by the labour-hire company, which was required to feed them. – Unable to move freely in the community, including visiting family. – Verbally abused by supervisors. – Refused work breaks. – Prohibited from attending church. 

Last Thursday, the workers were told they had been fired and were given less than 48 hours’ notice that they would be sent back to Fiji. Flights were booked on their behalf for Saturday night. Once in Melbourne the workers decided to stay and fight for their rights. Plant Grow Pick owner Mel Penson denied the workers should receive a minimum hourly rate and said Fair Work Australia had previously investigated the business and found no problems with the pay rate. 

Source: Fijione