Federal government must take action to stop the exploitation of foreign workers

Systemic exploitation of foreign workers in Australia is continuing unabated despite efforts by journalists and unions to expose the nefarious practices of some businesses and labour hire companies, Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan said today.

“In just one year we have seen the widespread exploitation of migrant workers revealed in industries as diverse as 7-11 and Caltex, to some of the largest food suppliers for supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths,” she said.

“Journalists and unions have fought at every turn to find these injustices and when revealed they have been met by just as keen an effort by business and the LNP Government to ignore these shocking cases.”

A recent joint Fairfax and ABC 7.30 Report has exposed a leading Victorian supermarket supplier using underpaid illegal migration workers hired through labour hire contractors, while the National Union of Workers (NUW) raided the Mornington Peninsula vegetable farm of A&G Lamattina & Sons to see employment records of the workers it suspects are being exploited.

The National Union of Workers is running a Fair Food Campaign and have a petition running at : https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/australia-wants-fair-food

“These cases aren’t aberrations big business and the LNP would want you to believe. This is just a sample of exploitation that is at pandemic levels.”

“The state governments in South Australia, and hopefully soon here in Queensland are moving to curb the dodgy practices of the labour hire firms that fuel this exploitation while escaping any regulation. The federal LNP government needs to do the same.

“We know that the cases revealed are just the tip of the iceberg. So it beggars belief that the federal government continues to do nothing — nothing — on this issue.

“Some of these workers are being paid as little as a few dollars per hour. Some are even ending up indebted by this work. The exploitation that is occurring here operates very close to slavery, and it needs to stop,” said Ms McLennan.

Workers pushed away from home by the lack of work and enticed by promises of jobs here in Australia with “Good Pay!” and “Guaranteed Jobs and Accommodation” are being lured by “fixers”, who leave them in Australia as illegal workers, with no visas, no rights under law, and under threat of deportation if they complain about their illegal working conditions.

“These workers need a voice. They are downtrodden, threaten and abused. The work that has been done by the NUW to give a voice to these workers is amazing. “

Ms McLennan  said the NUW had made reasonable demands through its Fair Food campaign to offer a  simple way forward for the federal government to stop this insidious exploitation:

  1. Sign onto a Fair Food Agreement with the union, which requires suppliers to provide a living wage & decent industry standards for fresh food workers.
  2. Regulate labour hire contractors to remove dodgy contractors and provide a list of ethically approved labour hire providers for farmers.
  3. Reward Fair Food Farmers who respect workers’ rights, and pay them a fair price for their produce.

“It is simple. The Turnbull LNP Government needs to choose whether it is against slavery in the 21st Century, or whether its sides with its mates in big business in denying the humanity of thousands of vulnerable workers across Australia.”


The National Union of Workers is running a Fair Food Campaign and have a petition running at : https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/australia-wants-fair-food


You can also read more about the latest about exploitation of foreign workers by reading the article by the joint Fairfax and 7:30 Report investigation.

Another supermarket fruit supplier caught allegedly underpaying migrants


Fruits of Their Labour



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