Pacific Seasonal Work Scheme Flawed

Published: Thu 26 Oct 2006 09:24 AM
Pacific Seasonal Work Scheme Flawed
The Pacific Seasonal Work Scheme is badly flawed ands will have significant practical difficulties for all involved. The Rural & Associated Contractors Federation said that while it looks good on paper, the scheme lacks the Government support to make it work.
RACF Executive Director Roger Parton said that the Federation welcomed any improvement in the manner in which contractors can address seasonal labour shortages but that this scheme, announced to coincide with the Prime Minster’s attendance at the Pacific Forum, is not the answer.
“First the Government has to address and clean up the problems with illegal labour and non-payment of the minimum wage that already exist” said Mr Parton. “It is all very well for the Minister of Immigration to assure the public that the minimum wage will apply but if they cannot enforce that now, and they are not, then what resources will be applied in the future to enforce it
The Federation is also concerned that the scheme puts the entire onus on the employer and none on the Government. “Immigration is unable to investigate and prosecute cases of illegal labour being employed now, even though sworn affidavits, evidence and location details are provided. They will wait for 42 days after a complaint is laid before anything is done and then not surprisingly, find the person has moved on. Yet if a seasonal labourer goes and works for someone else, the contractor is liable for a $3,000 fine, regardless of the actions he has taken,” said Mr Parton. “We understand that the investigations section of Immigration has had its funding reduced so they will be even less able to take action on complaints than they are now
“Quite simply, this is about politics rather than providing the industry with that it needs, that is suitable labour to meet shortages, in a scheme that is easy to administer and participate in. “he said. “This will only work if the enforcement back up is there and despite the Minister’s joint assurances, the industry has had too much experience to know that the resources to enforce this scheme will simply not be provided”
Mr Parton said that restricting the scheme to one region also posed problems as it deprived contractors of the ability to choose the best source of labour to address seasonal shortages. He urged the Government to rethink this proposal, remove the regional restrictions and convince the horticulture and viticulture industries that resources would be available to make the scheme work.
“Without a firm and proven commitment from the Government to provide sufficient resources to effectively support this scheme, it will be of little value”, said Mr Parton

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