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The Retail Supply Chain Alliance mentioned in the Senate

February 27, 2020

Great to see the work of the The Retail Supply Chain Alliance being highlighted in the Federal Parliament where the spotlight has been shone on the exploitation of seasonal workers.

Tasmanian Senator Catryna Bilyk spoke about the recent case of 77 migrant workers being housed in one property in northern Tasmania and called on the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaela Cash to investigate.

The Alliance, made up of The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), raised concern over the treatment of the workers, who are employed by Costa, earlier this month.

“Sadly, stories of mistreatment and exploitation of foreign workers are far too common. The Australian Workers’ Union Tasmanian Branch has been contacted by a number of workers who have come to Tasmania under the Seasonal Worker Program and reported being subjected to poor living conditions,” said Senator Bilyk this week.

Senator Bilyk said she would be pursuing concerns over the seasonal workers program through senate estimates and called on Senator Cash to respond to the following questions from the shadow minister for workplace relations, Brendan O’Connor:

  • What inquiries is the department making into the Shearwater incident?
  • How long will these inquiries take? Will the findings be made public?
  • Is the government aware of any other instances of mistreatment under the Seasonal Worker Program? Will it be auditing employers who use the scheme?

Daniel Walton, The AWU National Secretary, said: “Senator Cash needs to do her job and investigate these very serious issues. Our Pacific neighbours who comes to work in Australia deserve far better than this. They are living in appalling conditions, are being bullied and threatened in the field and taking home very little money at the end of each week. This is disgraceful.

“We need employers to ensure that the conditions these vulnerable workers are living in are first rate. It’s not good enough that companies like Costa are blaming third party contractors for these serious breaches. It’s Costa’s responsibility to look after the workers under this program. If they can’t do this properly then they should lose the right to employ people under temporary migration programs. We need to ensure standards are raised not just in Tasmania but across the country and we will hold rogue employers to account.”

AWU officials are investigating many more cases of worker exploitation.

More to come.

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