Seasonal agricultural workers are treated like slaves and killed at work

Contributed by Ugly

How could it be that in modern day Australia that agricultural seasonal workers be treated so badly? This work is highly exploitative. Wages are low, hours long, and conditions abysmal. There are other forms of abuse, like bullying, and the setting up of shops on isolated farms that overcharge for basic needs. One place was reported to have charged its workers $14.80 a week for access to water.

Seasonal work can be dangerous. More so when it comes with inadequate training. A report has just revealed that 16 of these workers have died since the beginning of the pandemic. This is not good enough. Those responsible, callous employers and the politicians that give them a hand should be held responsible.

Photo from the ABC: Farm work is dangerous especially for those not properly trained

Quite a few years back, I played a big role in exposing the fact that local big farmers and the town gods were cramming  seasonal agricultural workers into a hay packed enclosure with no way out, if there was a fire. As a young bloke, I did this type of work myself, and learned just how hard it is, the long hours of backbreaking work, and often brutal supervisors. All for ten hours days and less than half a wage.

The callous disregard for agricultural seasonal workers has been around for a long time and continues today.

This is possible because it remains out of sight for most Australians. It exists because governments have aided the importation of marginalised workers, often from other nations, and backpackers, unaware of  what they were being brought into and not knowing the rights they are entitled to. A source of cheap and vulnerable labour has been created.

The family of Silas Ufiau, a seasonal worker from Solomon Islands who was killed in a car accident in April has called for more regulations around the program, and better education for those coming to Australia about the culture, working conditions and road rules. Silas died in a work related road accident.

This is the human face of a situation at last in part caused by government programs to help import these workers without proper consideration for their welfare. It is well past time for this to change. There is a human rights issue. Nor is it something that should exist in the Australian workforce. Every worker is threatened by it.

Unions have been slow to move on this in the past. Mainly because they have few members in agricultural work They are noticing now and there will be more activity on this front.

Lawyers are planning a class action for compensation for victims of his abuse.

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