Is the 417 working holiday visa under threat?May 12th, 2015 | | Accommodation
An Australian government inquiry will investigate labour exploitation following revelations of widespread abuse of foreign workers. Allegations of unethical treatment and underpayment will be investigated by the state government of Victoria.
Victoria will also push for a national inquiry into what it has described as “a national shame”. Claims Australia has an underclass of foreign workers treated like “slave labour” were made by ABC TV last Monday.
The investigation uncovered abuses of the popular visa, including what were described as “slave-like conditions” at farms and factories across Australia.
“No employee should ever be exploited, harassed or deprived of their basic liberties”, said Victoria’s Minister for Industrial Relations Natalie Hutchins. “This is not just about the underpayment of wages; this is about creating an underclass of foreign workers,” said Ms Hutchins in a statement.
“It’s clear that Victoria needs a better system in place when it comes to regulating labour hire practices,” she said. The food being picked and processed by exploited workers was reportedly sold to consumers across the country by major supermarket chains and fast food outlets.
Queensland MP Keith Pitt last month called for an investigation of exploitation of foreign workers in the horticultural sector. He said many farmers were at risk of prosecution because they were using labour hire companies that underpaid backpacker workers.
Migrant workers are essential to Australia’s agriculture sector, according to the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF). “Without them, there would be a chronic labour shortage at peak harvest times of the year,” said NFF President Brent Finlay. But he said all farmers had a responsibility to adopt employment practices and use labour contractors that did not exploit workers.
“And it’s not just farmers, this is a whole of supply chain issue,” he said. As this story unfolds, our largest source market for 417 visas, the UK, have picked it up and run with it.
Is it simply a storm in a teacup or should the industry make a stand? Have your say
Written by Mike Barrow
Source: BBC News