Vanuatu seasonal workers claim low wages and unsafe working conditions

Lāunga kau ngāue fakafa’ahita’u ‘a Vanuatu' kovi e vahe' mo ngaohi kovia kinautolu ‘e he kautaha na’a nau ngāue ki ai ‘i ‘Aositelēlia ko e Agri Labour. ‘Oku tukuaki’i ne nau ‘uluaki fakamo’oni ‘i ha konituleki ne nau felotoi ki ai ‘i Vanuatu ki mu’a pea nau mavahe ki ‘Aositelēlia’. Ko ‘ene mahino kia kinautolu te nau vahe ‘o totongi fakafo’i pini ki he tokotaha. Ka ne liliu ia ‘i ‘Aositelēlia ‘o toko tolu ke vahevahe totongi ‘oku ma’u he pini ‘e taha. ‘I ai mo e tukuaki’i ki he fānoa ‘a e toto’ he ihu, mata mo e telinga tukuaki’i ko e tupu mei he kemikale he ngoue’anga’ ka ne ‘ikai ‘ave kinautolu ki fale mahaki.

VANUATU DAILY POST / PACNEWS

Vanuatu seasonal workers that were employed by Agri Labour in Australia have claimed that they were unfairly treated by their employer.

One of the workers, Tulia Roqara, says before they left Vanuatu for Australia, they signed a contract with the agent in Vanuatu to work under a piecework-rate basis.

It was their understanding that this means they are paid according to the number of bins each person fills at the tomato farm.

Under the first contract they read the conditions and know how much they were going to get paid.

But when they reached Australia, they were told to sign another contract and were allegedly not given time to read it.

Roqara said in the first contract they were supposed to get $59 (US$44) dollars per bin per person but after the first week they found that they were getting paid only $56 (US$42) dollars per bin filled.

One bin was shared by three people and the three people shared the amount paid.

She says they went to the employer to enquire and they were told about the required deductions.

But Roqara said the deductions went over the required amount.

The deductions mean they are left with around $100 (US$75) dollars per week.

She said they experienced bleeding in the nose, ears, and eyes which they think may be related to the chemical used in the tomato farm.

Despite raising the issue they were not taken to the hospital but were told to use cotton to cover ears.

The Team Leader for the group, Nako Naeiu, confirmed that they all faced the same issued identified by Roqara.

He said the first time he went to Australia the package was better, not like the experience with Agri Labour where there were too much deductions.

In the end, they were promised to return to Vanuatu with around 700,000 vatu but they only returned with around 20% of that amount.

Some of the workers have sought the assistance of the workers union.

Meanwhile, the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU) Vice President, Valu Gremson, says they are working

closely with their counterparts in Australia to ensure Vanuatu workers are not exploited.

Fifty workers arrived at the VNWU office last week to deal with their issue in relation to their superannuation and workers' rights.

He highlighted the recent case where workers were only paid $8 dollars an hour and the workers union stepped in to assist the workers.

The collaboration with the National Union of Workers (NUW) in Australia is taking place after an agreement was signed in 2015 with the VNWU.

Gremson says the Union wants the government to involve them in pre-departure briefings to talk about the process of claiming their superannuation and how to deal with disputes in Australia with the assistance of the Union.

He says with the network created by the NUW and VNWU, already nearly 500 members of the Union have been assisted to claim their superannuation in Australia.

The VNWU is looking at establishing the same connection with the Union in New Zealand.

Kaniva Tonga news has a republication arrangement with PACNEWS

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