Labour migration expert says Pacific seasonal workers reluctant to complain

A Pacific labour migration expert has said seasonal workers in Australia are more reluctant to complain about poor conditions than local workers, due to family obligations and a fear of being removed from opportunities.

The comments from Australian National University's Dr Rochelle Bailey come after a number of Pacific island workers appeared at a federal parliamentary inquiry into allegations of worker abuse under the Pacific Labour Mobility scheme.

Speaking at the inquiry, Vanuatu worker Sergio said conditions became so bad on his farm that he and some other workers stayed at home on strike for a week.

"I called the union to come and help us to buy the food," Sergio told the inquiry.

[My employer] come in and forced us to go to work and I said 'No'."

"'I come here for work money. I no come here for slave. You should give me a better life.' And that's why I fight for my peoples."

Pacific workers in Australia's meat processing industry have also reportedly been threatened with deportation for not showing up at work, as reported by The Age newspaper.

Dr Bailey told Pacific Beat the issue wasn't just restricted to Australia, but was associated with all international labour mobility programmes where workers are tied with one employer.

"We've got to be clear about this, not all employers do do that," she said.

"But workers, whether it's real or perceived, they all know that they can be removed from these programmes.

"So when you do see workers speaking out, they are taking a massive risk."


Photo file Caption: Pacific seasonal workers