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AWU conference moves to pursue new crackdown on PALM visa unfairness

August 8, 2022

The National Conference of the Australian Workers’ Union has passed a resolution calling on the Australian Government to crackdown on widespread exploitation and rorting of foreign fruit pickers by introducing new laws to limit pay deductions.

The Conference noted the progress the AWU had made in reforming the horticulture industry, including winning a historic case to end the use of piece rates below the minimum wage and preventing the uptake of the Morrison Government’s relatively unregulated ‘ag visa’ aimed at Southeast Asia.

“Most PALM workers work in excess of 30 hours a week, and can earn over $800. But their take-home is less than $100 a week after dubious deductions for accommodation and transport,” said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.

“After looking after their families back home, many PALM workers are left with nothing to buy even basic necessities.

Acting National Secretary Stephen Crawford, academic Dr Elsa Underhill, UnionsNSW Assistant Secretary Thomas Costa, AWU Organiser Lieta Sauiluma-Duggan, and farm worker Kaiolo Sefo discuss the horticultural industry.

Many of the deductions we’ve seen are just plainly rorts. We’ve seen deductions for water, for safety gear, and for rapid antigen tests (RATs). We’ve seen food and accommodation deductions charged at outrageous rates. We’ve seen deductions for visa costs, for pre-departure recruitment and medical checks, and even for flights.

“We should make it explicit that the employer picks up the tab for flights and not the worker. If that principle is good enough for white collar workers coming to Australia, it should be good enough for farm workers too.

“The Australian Government should introduce strict new rules to ensure PALM workers no longer need to pay for the bare basics of arriving and working in Australia.

“PALM workers should also be allowed to move freely between employers, provided that adequate notice is provided and the new employer is known and approved.”

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