Sunday, March 27, 2016

More complaints from seasonal workers on Australa

Last year a group of Fijians working at Euston/Robinvale walked off the job because of under payment. It is shocking to know the difference between the normal labour wage in Australia and what these men and women were getting.  Should be $500 a week, but it was about $10. Here's the latest  - a story from the Fiji Times which also was in the Australian media.

Pay dispute

Tevita Vuibau
Monday, March 28, 2016
THE Fijian Government has asked Australian authorities to look into the latest round of complaints of underpayment made by Fijians on the seasonal workers scheme in Australia.
This, after Australian broadcaster ABC reported yesterday that a group of Fijian workers quit working for their contractor alleging they were left with hardly any money after deductions for superannuation, health insurance and board were made. Australian Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash had told ABC "the Department of Employment had referred specific issues to the Fair Work Ombudsman for review".
Fijian Employment Minister Semi Koroilavesau said yesterday he was aware of the complaints and communication had been established with relevant authorities.
"There have been complaints raised and we have asked our Australian counterparts to handle the matter and inform us on their findings," Mr Koroilavesau said.
"We are waiting for the report and we need to be patient as it is not only Fijian workers who are involved in this seasonal work program."
The Fijian workers — part of a batch of 20 sent last year — also told ABC that Australian authorities have said they must either return to work for the contractor they said exploited them or leave Australia.
"They are pushing us to go back home. Everyone of us is not happy," one of the group's leaders Merewairita Sovasiga told ABC.
"And we are going back home with nothing. We are taking nothing back home."
A payslip obtained by ABC for a Tongan worker employed under the same contractor, showed on a weekly basis labourers could earn just over $A200 ($F313) but once all deductions were made, the worker received $A9.96 ($F15.60).
Mr Koroilavesau said he was awaiting advice on the issue from counterparts in Australia adding that ministry executives were in contact with Australian officials.
There have also been numerous social media posts on the situation with online groups established to document the alleged exploitation but Mr Koroilavesau said calmer heads needed to prevail.
"Social media has been reporting so many things and I have been told of different rates ranging from 10c to $100 a week and I have learned to ignore social media and wait for official reports from the Australian Government sources."
This is not the first time Fijians on the reestablished seasonal workers scheme have had wage disputes with Australian contractors.
Late last year a group of Fijians walked off their job at a farm in Euston, Southern New South Wales, claiming they were paid as little as $1.20 an hour.
But Mr Koroilavesau said both Australia and Fiji were learning from these experiences.
"Both governments know that there would be initial difficulties and it is work in progress. We cannot rush into these schemes hoping for miracles and as I have said, both governments are working together to overcome these hurdles."
He said the ministry was reviewing its selection criteria to allow the best suited Fijians to travel to Australia and not only be good workers but good ambassadors.
"While our ministry have been thorough in their selection, it is evident that there are still loopholes that we need to cover and improve on.
"Our preparations have been thorough also and I personally farewelled the groups in Nadi and have genuine discussions with them but we need to be patient and have a better understanding on the issues."

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