Fruit pick wages theft: study

Great Southern Herald - - News - Zach Relph

A study into Aus­tralia’s work­place con­di­tions for mi­grant work­ers has al­leged se­ri­ous wage theft in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, with claims farm­ing and fruit and veg­etable pick­ing jobs have paid as lit­tle as $5 an hour.

The Wage Theft in Aus­tralia sur­vey, spear­headed by Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales, re­ported about 15 per cent of tem­po­rary mi­grants work­ing in fruit and veg­etable pick­ing and farm work roles earned $5 an hour or less.

The re­port, for­mu­lated on re­sponses from 4322 mi­grant work­ers across 107 na­tion­al­i­ties work­ing in Aus­tralia, also re­vealed up to 31 per cent of pick­ers and farmhands earned $10 an hour.

WA Min­is­ter for Com­merce and In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Bill John­ston said while it was dif­fi­cult to “as­cer­tain if the find­ings are ac­cu­rate”, it echoed the State Gov­ern­ment’s con­cerns about low mi­grant wages.

“The McGowan Gov­ern­ment is con­cerned about some em­ploy­ers in the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try un­der­pay­ing and ex­ploit­ing mi­grant work­ers. This gives such busi­nesses an un­fair ad­van­tage over their com­peti­tors who are do­ing the right thing,” he said.

Of the tem­po­rary mi­grants sur­veyed, 55 per cent iden­ti­fied as in­ter­na­tional stu­dents and 33 per cent were back­pack­ers.

Grow­com chief ad­vo­cate Rachel Macken­zie said the hor­ti­cul­ture rep­re­sen­ta­tive group con­demned the find­ings.

How­ever, she said the sur­vey re­sults were not a true re­flec­tion of the in­dus­try.

“Wage theft in hor­ti­cul­ture is real and it is not ac­cept­able . . . even one case of wage theft is too many.”

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