What's happening on farms?

Workers are being exploited. Farm workers face wage theft, cash in hand as low as $8 an hour, piece rates significantly lower than the minimum wage and no superannuation. Workers are forced to pay dodgy contractors or their sidekicks exorbitant rent for unregulated accommodation. People are stuck in casual, insecure jobs sometimes for years. Harassment, bullying and sexual assault are all too common. We have a crisis on our hands.

Dodgy contractors operate across the horticulture industry. For too long they have been breaking laws without repercussion. The farm industry relies on migrant workers, including many that have been lured to Australia on the promise of opportunity and a chance to send money home to family. Many of these dodgy contractors also extort thousands of dollars from low paid farm workers on the promise of a work visa that doesn’t come through. People stuck in this situation are beholden to a contractor that exploits and underpays them and are pushed into debt. They live with fear and risk every day.

Ending the black economy 

State based labour hire licensing now exists in Victoria and Queensland. The union movement will continue to push for national legislation. Workers welcome this because dodgy labour hire contractors have been unregulated for too long, destroying people’s lives. Labour hire licensing will help clean up these dodgy contractors.

There are a group of workers that have been exploited by this structure for many years who need justice through an Amnesty that allows them to speak up about the exploitation they have suffered. We need a sensible and just solution to transition Indonesians and Malaysians currently working in Australia who do not have an ongoing visa out of the black economy and into a secure visa with rights and protections. It’s time to recognise the injustice that workers have faced at the hands of dodgy contractors and dodgy migration agents.

A new report published by the NUW documents the experiences of migrant farm workers in Australia’s fresh food industry and supermarket supply chains. The report makes key recommendations, urging action from major Australian supermarkets. Download here:

End the black economy