Young Australians being conscripted into modern-day slavery

The Australian Workers’ Union says the Federal Government’s proposal to incentivise unemployed young Australians to work on farms is nothing short of modern day slavery and will do nothing to stop rampant worker exploitation.

The Australian Workers’ Union says the Federal Government’s proposal to incentivise unemployed young Australians to work on farms is nothing short of modern day slavery and will do nothing to stop rampant worker exploitation.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is expected to announce plans that will allow those on JobSeeker to earn an extra $300 without losing any of their fortnightly allowance of $815.70

Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, said this was just another brain fart from the Federal Government that has once again failed to address the farming industry’s refusal to pay a fair wage.

“This Government can’t make its mind up. One minute they are saying young Australians don’t want to be out in the field picking our fruit and vegetables, the next they’re flirting with conscripting young Australians onto our farms rather than going with the old fashioned approach of actually paying proper wages,” said Mr Walton.

“This is a half-baked plan that is only designed to benefit one group of people – farmers.

“All it will do is exploit unemployed young Australians until the pandemic is over and then they’ll go back to relying on an even cheaper backpacking workforce.

“The farming industry has gotten away for decades with exploiting and abusing workers and chronically underpaying them. This proposal just gives them the green-light to do this to a whole new generation of young workers.”

The AWU says the new scheme could see people on JobSeeker take home around $550 a week for backbreaking work – well below the minimum wage and well below what farmers are already getting away with. The National Farmers Federation has previously declared the average picker earns around $1500 a week.

Mr Walton added: “This is an absolute disgrace of a policy with some vague idea tacked about opening up career paths for unemployed Australians in the agriculture industry.

“How about just paying people a fair wage and stopping wage theft and worker exploitation. Young Australians aren’t stupid, they’ve heard the horror stories that are widespread and rightly won’t go near this industry until they start paying better wages.

Young Australians should be outraged that their Government wants to entice them into modern day slavery by taking advantage of the pandemic.”

The Federal Government is also expected to extend working holiday visas for a further 12 months for backpackers already in Australia.

“We wouldn’t need this extension if the Federal Government actually did its job, policed the industry and allowed unions to conduct wage checks. If they did that it wouldn’t just be people on JobSeeker working on our farms – we’d have young Australians flocking to the regions.”

Listen to Dan Walton on ABC Breakfast with Sally Bryant here:

https://www.awu.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Dan-Interview.mp3

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