Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Guest Worker Scheme – a necessary evil

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Nelson at odds with Hull, advocacy group on guest workers

Up to 2,500 workers … from four Pacific Island countries will soon be eligible for a visa to Australia to harvest fruit and vegetables for up to seven months of the year.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says there should be enough unemployed Australians willing to work.

Some groups have criticised the scheme for not including Indigenous people, but … Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine says unemployed Australians should have their dole payments cut if they do not accept job offers to take seasonal work harvesting fruit and vegetables.

He says the Government must make if harder for people on welfare payments to refuse the fruit picking work.

“There’s a lot of disincentives in the system at the moment and we need to remove them and we need to put in place that if you can work – if there’s a job and you don’t take that job – then you should lose your welfare payment,” he said.

Having been a seasonal vineyard worker and now an age pensioner I can see this problem from both sides.

The only Australian workers available are local people looking for a supplementary income as one cannot make a living on the minimal wages paid. Our vineyard crew included local farmers, uni students during the harvest, and single mums who lose their social security benefits (health card. etc) if they work full time.

The unemployed who have been coerced into working in the vineyard go out of their way to get sacked and cause dissention amongst those who choose to be there ultimately causing walkouts. (Why should we have to do the work whilst bludgers just fill in the time for exactly the same money).

This is a burden to the grower as they have no idea how many workers will turn up tomorrow and it is labour intensive phoning around trying to get a crew together.

So, that leaves the exploitation of foreign workers to get the harvest complete. That suits the growers better as they just have to make one phone call to get their crew.

These poor souls are penniless in their own Pacific Island nations. So, an intermediary (contractor) pays their airfare to Australia, provides accommodation and transport to and from the workplace.

Of necessity, they are bonded to the contractor and, in many cases, this amounts to slave labour.

Whilst the grower pays the same rate to the contractor as to the local workplace, we have seen many instances where the foreign workers walk away with less than half the wages that we receive.

The harvest problem has been around since biblical days – I recall a parable about it – and it will never go away. We have to make the best of it.

The work gets done, the contract workers get more than if they had not come and the contractor makes a killing. The system sucks.

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Written by Greg Naylor

22 August 2008 at 12:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. ah yes, the tories won’t be happy until slavery is re-introduced.
    If they can’t do it with the shackle and the whip they’ll do it with currency, tarrifs and by creating an under-class it’s all the same to them.

    I grow my own fruit, that way I don’t have to recruit slaves nor fund slave-traders.


    22 August 2008 at 12:19 pm

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