Migrant fruit and vegetable workers suffer from wage theft says new Australian report

Ko e kau ngāue folau atu ki ‘Aositelēlia’ ‘oku kau kinautolu ‘i he totongi kovi taha he fonua’ fakatatau ‘eni ki ha līpooti fo’ou ‘a e , Wage Theft in Australia. ‘Oku ko e pehē ko e meimei vahe tolu ‘e taha ‘o e kau ngāue mei muli’ ‘oku totongi ‘i he vaeua ‘o e vahenga faka’aho ma’olalo taha ‘a ia ko e pa’anga $12 ki he houa.

Migrant workers in Australia are among the worst paid in the country, according to a new report, Wage Theft in Australia.

It said almost a third of migrant workers were paid half the casual minimum wage at $12 an hour or less.

The report found conditions were worst in jobs such as fruit and vegetable-picking and farm work.

About 15% of those workers earned $5 an hour or less, while a third earned $10 an hour or less.

The report said the scale of unclaimed wages was likely to be worth more than a billion dollars.

Last year the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that three Tongan workers on the  Seasonal Workers Programme had died and others were being forced to live and work gruelling hours.

In 2016 complaints about the way the programme was being run in Queensland led to the formation of Tongan support group.

The group’s president, Falepaini Maile, said Tongan workers were enduring appalling conditions in North Queensland.

She said one man, Paulo Kivalu, died at Bowen in 2016 from overwork, lack of food and medical care in the past 12 months.

Maile said the labour hire contractor had not paid Kivalu’s superannuation contributions for two years, leaving his widow and her two young girls in Tonga with just $1,360.

The labour hire firm paid the money only after he died.

Maile said Tongan workers were  living in unventilated shipping containers and cramped caravans in Childers and Bowen in Queensland.

The Guardian reported on the death of Tongan fruit picker Sione Fifita, who died after falling ill in the hostel. The paper said he  was left for eight days without medical care in this caravan park.

The ABC found Fijian and Tongan workers picking fruit in Victoria for as little as $9 a week after deductions  for accommodation, flights, visas, bedding, food and gloves  were taken from their pay.

The main points

  • Migrant workers in Australia are among the worst paid in the country, according to a new report, Wage Theft in Australia.
  • It said almost a third of migrant workers were paid half the casual minimum wage at $12 an hour or less.
  • The report found conditions were worst in jobs such as fruit and vegetable-picking and farm work.

For more information

A third of Australian migrant workers are paid less than half minimum wage

How labour hire villains make millions from Australia’s ‘modern slavery’ market

Hungry, poor, exploited: alarm over Australia’s import of farm workers

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