Photo: Season workers harvesting vegetables - Photo: ACRATH
Columban missionary, Fr Peter O'Neill, a member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) is continuing to assist 22 workers from Vanuatu who were victims of labour exploitation while picking fruit and vegetables on farms in Queensland in 2014. In March 2017, Judge Jarrett of the Brisbane Federal Circuit Court ordered the workers' labour hire firm to pay the workers almost $80,000 in outstanding wages. The Federal Court issued the contractor with a fine of $227,000. The contractor declared bankruptcy and until this day he has not paid the workers their salaries, neither has he paid the fine. Fr Peter followed up the case with the Fair Work Ombudsman last October. Recently the contractor was served with enforcement summons. Fr Peter is also following up the workers' non-payment of superannuation with the ATO.
Yesterday and today, ACRATH members made a visit to Parliament House in Canberra. As a part of their advocacy work, ACRATH will call on the Minister for Finance to allocate an Act of Grace payment of $107,900 for the “egregious exploitation” to the 22 men from Vanuatu who were employed under the Australian Government’s Seasonal Worker Program, a part of the Australian aid to the Pacific. The $107,900 would address the non-payment of the workers’ salaries, and the theft of their airfares and spending money.
ACRATH calls on the government to implement the recommendation of Prof Allan Fels’ Migrant Workers’ Taskforce Report (March 2019) to introduce a national labour hire registration scheme. ACRATH notes the Government’s in principle agreement to the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce 22 recommendations. ACRATH believes this will address in part the exploitation currently being experienced by overseas workers and help to realise Goals 1.3 and 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).