Today’s shocking media reports of the exploitation of migrant workers make the Albanese Governments improvements to the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme even more important.
On the 5th of June the Albanese government made a series of important changes to improve safeguards and stop the exploitation of migrant workers on the PALM scheme, which sees thousands of Pacific and Timor Leste workers employed on Australia’s farms.
One of the most significant changes includes a minimum of 30 hours’ work per week for short-term workers on the scheme and guaranteeing a minimum take–home pay of $200 per week after deductions made by their employer.
Today’s media report shows workers facing low and unpredictable hours and earnings. Low paid PALM workers who didn’t get enough hours still have to repay their employer sponsor their flight, housing and transport costs and are restricted from working elsewhere due to visa restrictions. This means workers often do not have enough money to live on or send back to their families in the Pacific, and some workers are leaving the country in debt or with very little to show for their hard work.
Farm worker Alisi Catanalotu:
“We are very happy to hear about this change, to have a minimum of 30 hours each week.
When it’s less hours and the deductions remain the same, we cannot earn enough and our families at home cannot get the support they need.
As we know, the cost of living is high. Everything is going up. We need fair wages and enough hours so we can afford to live. These changes are not just for workers that come here to work in Australia, it’s for our families at home.”
Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:
“Today’s report shows how important it is to improve the way migrant workers are treated in Australia. Lack of work, withholding of visas, weeks without pay when workers can’t feed themselves- this is blatant exploitation of workers.
“We welcome the Government’s announcement that short-term PALM workers will be guaranteed a minimum of 30 hours a week work – this will make a huge difference for the thousands of Pacific workers here on the scheme and brings us into line with the standards in the seasonal worker programs in New Zealand and the UK.
“The PALM scheme is an important development program providing support for Pacific workers, it is meant to enable them to send money home to their families and develop skills while they are working in Australia.
“We have been horrified by stories of exploitation on the scheme and welcome the changes the Albanese Government is making to the PALM scheme which will better protect temporary migrant workers”.
“We also welcome the steps the Albanese government is taking to tackle migrant worker exploitation more broadly. Namely the recently announced package of measures to target employers who seek to exploit temporary migrant workers and whistleblowers so workers can speak up about exploitation without fear of reprisal.
“These reforms to the PALM program are a critical step to tackle migrant worker exploitation”