Migrant Workers’ Taskforce – finds evidence of possible “unconscionable conduct” among hostelsAugust 2nd, 2017 | | industry
Accounts of backpackers trapped into working off debt by hostels that lock in exorbitant accommodation charges after advertising jobs that take months to materialise are a recurring theme among the stories of financial, psychological and sexual exploitation gathered by Rosie Ayliffe.
“Rosie’s evidence suggests that, amongst a myriad of abuses, there’s probably serious misleading and deceptive breaches of Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act, requiring the attention of the ACCC,” Alan Fels AO said.
Alan Fels chairs the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce which had a Roundtable Discussion in Sydney last week. Mr Fels’s taskforce is due to report back next year on the broader issues of migrant worker exploitation, with the “main problems” among working holidaymakers and student migrants.
So nothing fixed in 2017 to correct this blight on Australia. Yet how long has this been going on? Well this was the heading of a news article from May 2015 – Backpackers working on farms in Queensland are experiencing slave-like conditions and sexual abuse but don’t report it because they are terrified they won’t get their visas signed off (Daily Mail Australia) – 2015, 2016 and 2017 and nothings done. Rosie Ayliffe is doing a sterling job, but this issue has been dragging Australia down for years and its time for change. The Byte has regularly reported Rosie’s and other efforts in an attempt of its own to deal directly with this issue. Its bad press but its also bad marketing and we won’t sweep it under the table.
Fels’s referral to the ACCC is one of the first signs of Ayliffe (and others) are gaining traction in official circles after calls for sweeping new government oversight to combat abuses under a visa scheme that brings tens of thousands of overseas visitors a year into largely unregulated farm work.
Ayliffe, who is due to renew her campaign in Australia in October after returning to the UK last week, is already credited with shifting policy debate to recognise systemic problems with the scheme. “Her greatest contribution has been giving a full public airing to what is happening. It is helping spread the word in the community and to politicians,” Fels said.
Ayliffe said she had been overwhelmed by the apparent prevalence of rogue operators since launching her campaign, including a website and a backpacker survey drawing almost 140 respondents so far. “Since the survey I’ve had a huge number of messages flagging people, to the extent that I can’t deal with it,” Ayliffe said.
“My heart just sinks when I see on Facebook messenger someone wants to contact me. It’s just story after story of horrendous treatment.”
About 36% in Ayliffe’s survey, 50 people, said they did not get what they were promised by hostels or farms, most citing false guarantees of immediate job starts that left them racking up debt and beholden to expensive bonds while waiting for work …
Further reading on The Guardian
Sourced (and additional comments) by Chris Harrison