Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

False Names, Dodgy Dealings Are Exposed; Some Workers Could Earn as Little as $6 an Hour, without Workcover

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

False Names, Dodgy Dealings Are Exposed; Some Workers Could Earn as Little as $6 an Hour, without Workcover

Article excerpt

Carolyn Archer

Reporter

carolyn.archer@news-mail.com.au

SHAMELESS exploitation of travelling workers and the use of illegal workers across the region's farming industry continues to tarnish Bundaberg's name amongst international travellers.

Former contractor Kevin Pope is bitterly disappointed that the experience of a lifetime for hundreds of young travellers is instead more like a nightmare as they work long hours for little reward.

Forced out of the industry in 2007 because he could not compete, Mr Pope believes it's a small percentage of contractors who are doing the wrong thing.

But he says it's becoming impossible for those doing the right thing to remain competitive.

"The majority of workers who come here initially are inexperienced so a training rate of $14-$15 an hour for their first three months would be an appropriate pay, but even at that rate they could make enough money," he said.

"By the end of the three months, contractors should be paying about $19.75 an hour."

Instead, Mr Pope said, some contractors were paying fruit-and-vegetable pickers by the bucket in conditions which could see workers earn less than $6 an hour.

"They are ripping the whole community off," he said.

"These contractors aren't paying tax.

"There is no Workcover arrangement."

Now helping international workers find better working conditions and managing a share house, Mr Pope said many of the workers were coming here with no experience and were being expected to work in unrealistic conditions.

"They are expected to work continuously in the heat with no water and not allowed to stand up and straighten their backs from time to time," he said.

"We used to see the same workers returning year after year and it's not happening anymore."

Mr Pope said in many cases farmers were not aware of how their workers were being treated.

"Often the farmers are paying the correct amounts to the contractors, thinking their pickers are being paid more but the contractors are pocketing the difference and ripping everyone off," he said.

Mr Pope said the negativity would eventually cost the industry a reliable workforce and it was up to farmers to acknowledge what was going on. …

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