Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Backpackers Say 'Enough!'; Foreign Farm Workers Reveal the Raw Deal They Get in Region

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Backpackers Say 'Enough!'; Foreign Farm Workers Reveal the Raw Deal They Get in Region

Article excerpt

Byline: Vanessa Marsh

FOREIGN fruit pickers are fed up at the living and working conditions they cop in the Bundaberg region, likening it to "slavery".

Seven backpackers have come forward with a list of claims to the NewsMail, including:

* paying more up front than they were earning in picking wages;

* being paid less than the hours they were entitled to;

* being refused water by work supervisors, who constantly shouted at and abused them;

* being forced to lie on an incident report after a machinery accident.

The travellers, who were all staying at East Bundaberg Backpackers before moving to a new hostel, were working on a tomato farm owned by SP Exports, but were employed by a work subcontractor called "Max", who would not reveal his surname.

SP Exports managing director Andrew Philip has promised to investigate the allegations further, but East Bundaberg Backpackers owner Cali Posun said she operated similarly to most hostels in town.

The tourists had to pay $161 a week for a 16-person dorm room and $42 for bus travel to and from the farm, in return for guaranteed work.

But they claim they are now financially worse off than when they arrived in Bundaberg.

Estonian traveller Rein Vahur said he felt like a "slave" while staying at the hostel and working on a Childers tomato farm.

"THEY tell us they can guarantee at least three days of work, but sometimes that is only two hours," Mr Vahur said.

"And you never get your right pay. You always need to fight to get your money."

Fellow Estonian Silver Raudsepp said he was fed up with constant threats from supervisors.

"We get screamed at all day like we are animals," he said.

"They just keep yelling constantly saying, 'work faster', 'pick harder', 'open the bushes', 'use two hands'. They always say they will sack us if we don't hurry up."

Mr Raudsepp said he knew of five backpackers who were fired because they pestered their supervisor for water after five hours without it. …

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