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Shocking farm worker findings – ‘a blight on the Australian way of life’

Oliver Peterson
Article image for Shocking farm worker findings – ‘a blight on the Australian way of life’

A damning report by Unions NSW has detailed widespread exploitation of workers in the horticultural industry, with workers being paid as little as $1.25 an hour.

The report, part two of Unions NSW’s Wage Theft: The Shadow Market survey, audited more than 1000 job ads for entry level farm work and interviewed Australian and temporary-migrant workers employed in the horticulture industry.

Worker mistreatment included manipulation of piece rates to bypass award and minimum wages, forcing workers to accept high cost but often substandard accommodation, and sexual and racial abuse. The report also found temporary migrant workers, often vulnerable and dependent on farm work to extend their visas, were abused or sacked if they complained about pay or conditions.

Speaking with Oliver Peterson, Secretary of Unions NSW Mark Morey said while the farm sector claims COVID-driven migration limits are limiting its ability to find workers, and politicians claim young people are shunning hard work to stay on job support, the report shows the worker shortage is overwhelmingly driven by poor wages and conditions.

“Which parent is going to send their child to pick vegetables for fruit for a couple of dollars an hour?”

“It’s a blight on the Australian way of life.”

The Australian Workers Union have lodged a case with the Fair Work Commission to seek to have the piece rate removed and instead have a minimum rate of pay.

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Oliver Peterson
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