Seasonal workers

Calls for a crackdown on labour hire companies 'poaching' Pacific workers

In the last 18 months, around 12,000 workers have come into Australia from countries such as Vanuatu and Samoa.

But how many have stayed in the jobs, they were contracted to do?

ABC Rural has been told more than 1,000 of these workers have absconded, with many poached by labour hire companies that are not licensed to do so.

What's going wrong?

Speaking to RN, Richard Shannon from Growcom said across Australia, farmers were reporting seasonal workers suddenly leaving their jobs.

Seasonal workers from the Pacific hard at work at NT mango farms

The 34-year-old arrived in Darwin in September and works at a packing shed in Berry Springs, where she has been picking and sorting mangoes.

"Life in Samoa is really tough," she said. "I have a lot of family … I am supporting them.

"The company we [are] working [for] … we love their hospitality. The way they treat us Samoans is why we don't want to go back to Samoa … Australia is like a second family to us."

Prospective RSE workers scammed in Samoa

The Samoa Observer said some of the victims turned out to the Faleolo Airport to fly out to but no charter flight was scheduled.

The newspaper reports a senior ministry official has confirmed that three people were identified by their victims.

Cabinet recently announced that 222 workers travelled for work in Australia's Northern Territory on a scheduled flight on September 19.

Ardern announces RSE workers allowed one-way quarantine-free travel

In a post-Cabinet media briefing Monday afternoon, Ardern announced Cabinet had made the decision to allow Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from those countries to travel one way, without using MIQ.

The countries this would apply to reflected the fact all three nations had experienced very few cases of Covid-19, she said. Tonga had seen zero Covid-91 cases, Samoa just one, and Vanuatu had four - all those cases having been at the border with no community transmission.

Seasonal workers from Pacific Islands gather to celebrate culture, identity and sport

People from the Pacific Islands have long been a part of the Riverland community, with many travelling far from home to take up seasonal work in the South Australian agricultural region.

However, COVID-19 has made that distance from home seem even further, with workers who were already in Australia before the pandemic hit forced to stay longer than expected.

As well, due to the labour shortage across Australia, 800 people from the Pacific Islands have come to the Riverland and quarantined for two weeks before heading out to work on properties across the region.

Over 100 Samoan seasonal workers depart for Australia

The flight QF6063 which arrived empty from Australia on Tuesday afternoon departed Faleolo International Airport for Sydney with an emotional farewell.

Hundreds of families of the selected seasonal workers filled the airport to bid farewell to their loved ones.

Most of the workers said they have waited for up to three years to get this opportunity.

Usufono Taupule, a 31-year-old from the big island of Savai’i is one of them – He applied for the seasonal work opportunity in 2019.

Nearly 700 Samoan seasonal workers heading to Australia

Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo confirmed that the first chartered flight is scheduled to take 216 Samoan seasonal workers to Australia on 3 June.

The second chartered flight would be taking 144 RSE workers to be based in Victoria, Tasmania on 5 June.

The other two flights will take another 300 seasonal workers for contracts in Victoria and Queensland, on 15 and 18 June.

Agafili said most of the workers would be spending three years in Australia under the seasonal workers’ programme.

More Samoan workers heading to Australia

    TV1 Samoa reports the group will join the more than 300 workers already in Australia working in the meat industry.

Assistant chief executive of the Ministry of Commerce and Labour, Lemalu Nele, says the office is not taking new applicants for seasonal work saying they are only taking applicants from 2018.

The Australian scheme gives work to Samoans on nine-month stints and are contracted to return for up to three years.

Lemalu says more than 700 workers are already employed in New Zealand since they resumed sending workers at the beginning of the year.

Samoan seasonal workers rake in millions

The Labour Minister Lautafi Fio Purcell announced the earnings during his reply on the Supplementary Budget 2020/2021 in Parliament.

He said in the 14 years since the start of the scheme, the workforce had increased steadily to the current 3400 labourers.

"We are seeing an increase in earnings from the scheme," he told the House.

Lautafi said that for the financial year 2019/2020 nearly $US80,000,000 was earned.

"This is money that is going directly to our families and villages which is an amazing development."

155 Samoan seasonal workers depart for New Zealand

The workers departed Samoa’s Faleolo International Airport on a special flight Thursday.

This is the second group of workers to arrive in New Zealand to take up work under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

About 780 seasonal workers are expected to travel to New Zealand over the coming months.


Photo NZ High Commission in Samoa/Facebook Caption: Part of the group of 155 seasonal workers waiting to board their flight at Samoa's Faleolo International Airport